29 September 2012

slow-motion saturday...

the other night i took the kiddos over to my mom's place to hang out for a bit, and my son wanted to show me how the camera on mom's phone had a slow-motion feature.  the footage below is what he captured.  

originally i posted the video on facebook, but the wife thought it'd be even funnier with some music.  after some fiddling around with the iMovie app on my phone, and with special thanks to the White Stripes - as you may have read, we're very close to Jack White now - i have a new finished product.


28 September 2012

when words fail...

i've been trying to think of a way to summarize the re:Write2012 conference the wife and i attended last weekend in san diego. unsuccessfully, i might add.

it's not that i'm having trouble coming up with good things to say. from start to finish, each session was replete with pointers, tips, and actionable advice. the speakers were knowledgeable, well-spoken, and, most wonderfully, humble. 

and i think this is the problem: the speakers did more than just 'a good job'.  the conference was more than simply 'informational'. i had more than just 'a good time'. the weekend was all at once, for me, something purer, simpler, and more complex than these things.

and so it was i was standing outside just now lamenting the fact that i had reached this impasse when it occurred to me that maybe the best way to show how the conference impacted me was to chronicle - albeit briefly - my reaction to a couple speakers as i heard them. to wit, i've included below my tweets from a few of the sessions we attended over the course of the weekend.  after these, i'll close with a comment or two and leave any further reviewing to others...

and so it was that for me, the re:Write conference was more about living than writing.  and because so much of what was talked about was related to how writers should live, the business of how writers should actually write was addressed without anybody having to really try. i've been fascinated to notice that as i've returned to the real world and regular life, i've heard the speakers' voices in my head, not so much talking to me about how or when or why i should write, but about how i should speak to others, face my fears, love my family and, above all else, trust the love of God.

(for a full review, the wife's blog can't be beat, and you can get a full look at the conference here)

26 September 2012

of course, i'm listening. mostly . . .

my wife, lori, and jen ferguson from finding heaven recently asked me to be a part of a series on encouraging those close to us, mainly our spouses. below, you'll find the beginning of my post for close enough to forget.  

of course, i'm listening. mostly...

on a day-to-day basis, i try to interact with my wife in a way that is informed by empathy. i want my actions toward her, and interactions with her, to be grounded in an ongoing desire to understand not only where she's coming from but why and how i can relate to her in a way which allows her to feel safe, loved, and above all, heard. 

heard. and therein lies the rub.

because frankly, i've gotten lazy. one of the bittersweet realities of life together is all at the same time we should seek to develop, and subsequently enjoy, the comfort that comes from knowing and being known on the deepest level. we should also be ever-vigilant against the tendency to become too comfortable. honest discussion, absence of pretense, freedom of expression: these are all hallmarks of comfort, even safety, if you will. on the other hand, presumption, assumption, dismissal, and ignorance are the hallmarks of a relationship wherein one or both parties has become too comfortable. in fact, when this happens, it's not about comfort at all; its' about valuation. that's not true. if I'm honest, i would admit it's not about valuation at all; its' about devaluation. 

(Click here to continue reading . . .)

20 September 2012

what good may come...

a couple days ago, the wife wrote about a trip we're getting ready to take - we actually hit the road in a couple hours - and a little bit about the reason for the trip and how it all came to be. as she so well iterated, we're immensely excited about the opportunity to 1) learn from those who have cleared a path in the world of writing and publishing, and 2) see someplace completely new to us!

there's no need for me to do here what she has so ably already done, but i've a thought that won't let me go, and sometimes the only thing for it is to let it breathe.

it's funny how God uses life to prepare us for life. i'm a man who is often given to great expectations. and while i do have wonderful, lofty, exuberant expectations for the next few days, i can feel the Spirit gently reminding me that i'm not called to chart a course, i'm called to follow it; i'm not called to harness or to be the wind, i'm called to go where e'er it blows.

looking back, i can recall countless moments in my life when i was sure i understood what was happening, when i knew that A was happening because B was sure to follow. B almost always represented (and it still does, a great deal of the time) what i had become convinced was what God should do next, what he ought to do, because it made sense.  and, looking back, i can see now where all those A moments led not to B, but to C, sometimes D, and every once in a while, Q. when that would happen i would rail against the injustice of a God who couldn't, just this one time, do things the way i told him to. now i see, though still dimly, darkly, that A had to lead to C, that K was meant to come before R, that my view of the future and how it should play out is limited in scope and diminished by brokenness.

which is all to say that yes, i want, and i want to expect, that good things will come of this weekend.  but i'm relying entirely upon the power of the Spirit to let go of my need to tell God - or anybody else for that matter - what those good things should be.

this, then, is my prayer:

Father, i come to you tonight with a mind full of thoughts and plans and fears and questions, and a heart full of doubt and uncertainty and the beginnings of a fragile hope, hope that i can allow myself to believe that what you want for me is for good, and not for ill.

though i cling to the way i believe things should be with a tenacity that belies a deep-seated, pride-fed fear, i pray that, by your Spirit, you would give me grace to let go. 

cover me and mine in the shadow of your wings, and allow us to find the joy of knowing that we can trust your character even when we cannot discern your ways.

above all else, hold me, Lord. 
hold me in your goodness
hold me in your grace
hold me in your strength
hold me in your patience
hold me in your faithfulness
hold me in your wisdom
hold me, Lord
in your love.

through Christ our Lord, 


15 September 2012

this post is about a headless bird...

that's not a euphemism or a metaphor. it's not symbolism or allegory. what you will find below is a picture of a bird without a head. (and be warned: pictures of headless birds are pretty much as awful as you might imagine)

I was sitting at a picnic table while the kiddos played on some playground equipment. while they were swinging on the swings, I heard a thud just a few feet away. initially, I thought it was a rock that some small children who were also at the playground had thrown. as I gazed over in the area the noise came from, though, I realized the sound hadn't come from a rock, but from a bird. I thought that was kind of strange, to be sure, but I kept on doing what I was doing.

and this is the part that gets me.

at the time the bird - I didn't at this point know it had been beheaded - fell, I had been praying. the sum of my prayers was something like: I get that I'm supposed to trust you, God, but nothing is going the way I want or the way we need or the way I think it should. why aren't you doing anything, Lord? how can you let these things happen? and why won't you let other things happen, things for which we've been yearning and praying and dreaming and crying?

and so the other small kids left, the sun began to set, and I told my kids it was time to go. as we left, the daughter exclaimed, "this bird doesn't have a head!" incredulous, I went over to get a closer look. and for some reason, I laughed. actually, I think I gasped and then I told the daughter to move back because I've been raised to believe that dead birds are easily the dirtiest thing on the face of the planet, and if you touch one you'll not only get black death but you'll spread it to the rest of the world with every last wheezing breath you take. but after all that, i did laugh, the sort of quiet chuckle one does when one realizes things mean something more, or something different, or something else, than you thought.

I had this reaction, I think, because I was in that moment reminded of a couple things. I remembered how the bible tells us that not even a bird falls out of the sky without God knowing. seeing that once living, once flying thing, I thought about how I mattered to God, but I also thought about how trusting him sometimes means that I'm going to fall, too, not because I've stopped trusting but because I've decided to trust him no matter what.

I also in my mind's eye thought of God, sitting in heaven, growing tired of my constant grousing, thinking to himself, "that boy has gone on long enough. maybe this'll do the trick." cue headless bird dropping from the sky. and it worked. (for awhile, anyway.)

I know God knows me. I know he sees me. I know I matter more to him than the birds of the air, and just as he knows when one of his birds falls from flight, so too he knows when one of his kids has just about had enough.

tonight, remembering that he remembers, knowing he knows, noticing that he takes notice, is exactly what I need.

the headless bird I could have probably done without. but then that's not my call, is it?

05 September 2012

blog repost: i woke up feeling blue, then angry... (Imperfect Prose)

a while back, some friends and i started writing a blog under pseudonyms, on a bit of a lark really, just to have some fun and see what would happen. the answer is that not much happened. we wrote for a bit and then sort of let it go. what you will find below is a re-post* of something i wrote about a year ago under my pseudonym (st isidore), but it's interesting to note how i still experience days like the one i describe. life is, as they often say, a marathon and not a sprint.

i'm thrilled to be linking up with imperfect prose today...


i fear i've been a bit mopey of late (see post title above). and this isn't false humility, or self-deprecation. i've been mopey. more than anywhere else this sad, somewhat sardonic disposition comes out in the things i write. so up front, ahead of the poem which follows this, which is definitely mopey, i apologise.

i was laid off two months ago, and this exciting bit of personal history has served to fuel whatever natural tendencies toward fear and doubt and insecurity i already had. not completely, mind you, for the flip side of my somewhat depressive state is a nearly preternatural tendency to believe everything is going to be okay. that's weird, right? this morning, for example, i woke up and without even trying, before i'd even had time to take a pee and put my glasses on - in that order, to my wife's chagrin - i felt depressed.

yet sitting here, typing these words, wondering what you'll think of me and the poem i've written, i somehow feel hopeful, nearly cheery, at how it's all going to work out. i see all the wee drops of grace falling before my very eyes. the way the wife writes poems and stories that make me want to read them more, and be a better writer, husband, and father all at the same time; the way the son and daughter attempted to learn how to knit together last night, and how they really did try to help each other, and how the son had the good sense to take a break when he started getting frustrated; the way my bacon tasted this morning, and the way the coffee tasted, oh God, the coffee, the way it tasted and warmed and worked its way into my belly and my veins and my soul.

God is ruining me and saving me all at the same time, and all at the same time it's wonderful and it hurts like hell. God is teaching me to revel in my impotence while i learn to trust in his omnipotence. it sucks and it's stupid and i don't get it and i know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that i can't get him to move any faster than he is because his love for me does not work on my schedule.

his love for me is killing me and giving me new life, all at once, every moment of every day. he is my God, and i am his child. he is God, and he is love, and i am love's child. enjoy the poem.

*as you may have deduced from some of the references, the original post had a poem, too.  you can find it all here.

03 September 2012

for every furnace...

i originally posted the following thoughts on google+, but thought i'd share them here as well...

there are things for us to learn about ourselves and about God that we can only learn in places of hopelessness. we have become averse to the dark moments on our journey because of the truths to which they bear witness. we have become so enamored, so convinced of our potential, our ability, we forget our life in him begins in death, and the resurrection to which he invites us begins at a place of (repeated) mortification.

we have become those who don't want to talk about where we come from, though where we come from is inextricably tied to where we are going. our journey began in the valley of dry bones, in Lazarus' grave, in the borrowed garden tomb in which Jesus was placed. our victory begins in defeat, our bright shining light is berthed in the song-less night of despair.

it stands to reason, then, that we should not hurry past the moments, the seasons, of darkness in our lives now. we ought not flee our hopelessness, or worse, deny it. we should, i think, embrace it, and ask Jesus to meet us there. in so doing, we give him the opportunity to remind us that our inability to change an impossible situation, cure a terminal illness, or cross an impassable sea, is not the end of the story.  here him tell you, tell me, that for every desert there is manna, for every sea, dry land underfoot, and for every furnace, there is one walking with you, whose face is like the Son of God.

in our hopelessness, in our inability, in our daily death, let us remember that we have been buried with him, yes.  but also, with him, raised up anew...

02 September 2012

3 word challenge...

i saw this first on from tracie, and i thought it'd be fun. the folks over at trifecta, as part of their weekend contest, issued the following challenge:

Robert Frost one said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."  We want you to do the same.  Sum up anything you want, but do it in three words.  Your response should mirror Frost's quote by beginning, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about--."  And the last four words are yours to choose. 


in three words i can sum up everything i've learned about parenting: just be there.


01 September 2012

still, not stuck

we are a people of action.  we love to be doing.  social network updates are rife with declarations of activities, causes undertaken, places visited, life goals accomplished.  there is nothing inherently wrong with getting things done, i suppose, but i wonder if, and here i turn my eye to the church, to Christ-followers, we haven’t become so addicted to acting that we’ve forgotten the importance of being acted upon.

certainly God calls us to do things.  the great commission is about going, and there are numerous exhortations to feeding hungry people, clothing the naked, and so on.  love, as dcTalk reminded us, is a verb.  yet that’s not the whole story.  God is also the God who, though he didn’t really need to, took a day off.  Jesus was always trying to get away from the crowds, and when that didn't work, he got up before anybody else so that he could be alone with God.

i have found myself of late repeatedly asking God what he wants me to do. there are times when i feel like i'm living out the U2 song, completely stuck in a moment i can't get out of.  but there's stuck, and then there's still. and i feel like God isn't so much telling me to do something, but waiting for me to allow something to be done to me, in me.  something only he can do. it's like when the dentist or the doctor tells you to lay still so they can work.  to extend the metaphor logically, i don't mean to say that God needs me to stop moving around or else he'll make a mistake. rather, i think he wants me to be still because in my stillness i am confessing one of the great and most difficult truths of our faith: God knows better what i need than i do.

we do because we think we know. we act because we're convinced we've charted the right course, made the best decision, formed the surest plan. we are, however, to paraphrase the late rich mullins, not as right or sure or strong as we think we are.

it may not be for always, and it may not be for now, but when you hear the call, i encourage you to heed it: be still.  cease to act, and ask for the courage and the grace and the good sense to allow yourself to be acted upon.

it is God who has begun the work, and God who will keep it...