Archive for February, 2013

Old soul

Posted: February 22, 2013 in Random, Reflection

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I’m feeling a little bit nostalgic.  And I was looking for something that I can spark some comments on.  So what I want to hear is what things do you miss from your childhood or earlier in your life and why?  What will your kids never get to experience and why will their lives be emptier because of it?  Here’s my list.

Candy store – I’m not talking about the Jelly Belly store at the mall.  I mean the good old candy store like in the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory where you had to actually speak with the man behind the counter to get something.  And he could make recommendations to you to introduce you to a wonderful new treat you would have never heard of.  It’s like Amazon ratings of candy, but not from some impersonal not on a screen but from a real live human, who could emote and excite you into understanding what the new candy had to offer.  More important, as the store I used to visit with my grandfather every time we visited, the human would get to know your preferences without clicking Like buttons and running through an algorithm, so they could really recommend the right things.

Kids playing outside – Again, I’m not talking about walking in a group to the mall, or just your own kids going outside and playing for a few minutes.  I’m talking about the days of my youth when the entire neighborhood was outside for hours, together.  Where you had enough kids for a pickup baseball game, or a really cool game of Capture The Flag with two dozen kids on a side.  Our kids met the other kids in the neighborhood once and then they see each other on the bus, or waving at each other through the window of their cars as they get carted to another preplanned activity.  We also actually went to the park…. By ourselves….. when we were 7.  No idea if we just did not have creepy people in the same numbers as today, if the current ones are more bold, or we have all just scared ourselves into believing there is a menace out there that is not real, but I understand the inability to do that now.  I can still miss it though.

3 channels on TV and no VCR – Remember when things on TV were an event?  And EVERYONE you knew was in on it?  I remember when “V” was on TV and all my friends and I would gather every week and talk about the latest episode, or when the Olympics we on, especially with things like the Miracle on Ice or Nadia with her great gymnastics routines.  I remember my parents all nuts with anticipation about who shot JR.  Those of you old enough to understand those references can understand.  Now I could ask you what happened on Fringe last week and most people would be like, “What is that?” but back then many of these things were a national dialogue.  Listening to my favorite baseball team on the radio or watching the games on Sunday afternoons with my Dad until he fell asleep on the couch after the 2nd inning.  There was no ESPN to summarize the scores or website to see what happened.  If you missed the game you heard about it from your friends or looked up the box score in the paper.  I remember you had the Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island, or the A-Team, or Three’s Company or the Cosby Show.  The conversation on the playground or around the water cooler was about a shared experience because you had the networks or nothing.  The only Real Housewives I knew were my friend’s mom’s and the drama was pretty tame.  When cable came around it was all the rage, but then became the error of “100 channels and nothing on”.  It’s only gotten worse.  I still only watch maybe 7 channels.  Is that because I grew up with only 3?  Not sure.

There are a lot of other items, but those are the ones I really think about most often.  For me it comes down to the loss of community.  We are all a nation of home bodies now.  We interact with our screens instead of each other.  I find it strange that we used to read books about these faceless, unemotional, connectionless futures thinking they looked pretty scary, and sure enough we evolved right into that.  Dinner parties were a big thing with the neighbors when I was first married.  Now I suggest them to people and they look at me like I suggested they slaughter their first born child.  I can’t help but wonder what has been lost and what we will continue to lose in the future with these shifts.  I just interviewed a candidate for a job this week.  I could tell he was not comfortable around people.  I had to ask him if he felt he could interact with co-workers and get business requirements.  His response is that he could certainly talk with them on the phone.  I said, tongue-in-cheek, that he might even have to talk with them in person.  He stared blankly and had no response for me.   My HR manager and I just looked at each other and exchanged a glance.  He is not getting the job.

So let me hear what you have got to say.

Knock on wood, I have been blessed to never have to have yet experience the joy of corrective lenses.  My eyesight was 20/10 then 20/15 last time it was checked so I can usually see and read things from a further distance than most.  I do have a wife and kids and friends and family who have not been so blessed and I hear various tales about how they cannot see at all without their glasses or the distortion they experience without them, that may not make them unable to see entirely but may make their impression of what they are seeing false.

Regularly, but certainly much more so in the last few months of trials and tribulations, I find myself musing about how it is that someone comes to believe in God and once there, how that faith remains firm.  As I talk with non-believers it is always interesting how we see the same thing differently, much the same way I might see something differently then someone who is standing next to me and forgotten their glasses.   I am looking through the “God lens” and they are not, and the pictures, views and stories that unfold are so vastly different that my closest analogy is when I am showing a picture to my wife as we are sitting in bed and she says, “You know I can’t see that at all without my glasses”.

Just this week we had an unexpected surprise that we are almost certain was instigated by Bert.  We were informed that someone had called in some claims about some of our kids and the county would be stopping by to investigate.  The meeting went very well, was very brief, and yet another annoyance from Bert will be put aside shortly.  The claims were so outlandish and so ridiculous that the county worker put us as ease very quickly that they were not even looking very hard at this and after talking to the kids he was even more reassuring that they are required to investigate any claim but that it will likely go down with the other unsubstantiated claims Bert has put forth ever since my wife and he parted ways.

As we were informed on Friday of the pleasure of the visit we should expect on Monday, one of the items I had to wrestle with was how to discuss Bert.  In hindsight, what I did was the best thing I could have done, but because I see the world through the God lens, I understand that the words came to me from God and not from myself.  You see, what I had been going back and forth with was do I explain Bert as the troubled sociopath we all know him to be or take a more “reasonable” approach.  This battle was going on inside me all weekend, and I knew God would direct me to the right path in the end.  The first route was certainly more satisfying to my human sin nature as I could besmirch, belittle and degrade Bert to my heart’s content.  Instead what I did was explain that as a parent, I saw Bert’s actions as a little “off” and gave some simple examples of how we seems to over share concerns and not understand basic boundaries and how uncomfortable that makes me.  Almost from the moment I started talking about this with the social worker, he began to parrot back the same terms and was truly interested.  My wife said it was a completely different visit than she had ever experienced in the past.  I could pat myself on the back and say what a great speaker I am and how brilliant my strategy was, but I understand that all those gifts come from God and he uses them to glorify Himself and His plan for my children, my family and the world.  I could selfishly put on the lenses of many others in the world and give myself the credit, but that would be wrong.

As each of us looks back on events like this, we see them in a certain way, entirely influenced by what lenses we are using.  Bert has never been exposed to a God lens, so everything is orchestrated by him.  That can be empowering for a time, but I also know many people in my life who are destroyed by the crushing weight of things going “wrong” and not having God lenses to help them see differently.  In this process, Nan has been communicating with my wife and they also recently met up at the mall with one of my daughters to help her confidently move up to “big girl” clothes (she was insisting on staying in girls clothes when she really needed to move up to miss’s).  My wife said they would “double mom” her.  Even with God lenses, I still sit back and look askance at some of these interactions as freaks of nature and just weird, however I can also see them for what they are:  a blessing from God that even though we both had divorced from people who were terrible for our children and ourselves that God can work in our lives to still use those people to help our kids.  Nan has not changed.   She still makes statements when I talk to her about our kids wrong behavior, where she still endorses their sinful desire to cause others pain.  She still just wants the selfish, easy way out of things and passes that message on to the kids and causes our household to need to have tough conversations we should not worry about.  Without the God lenses, I would probably see these things with anger,  stop them, or react in some other way other to how I should to let God fulfill His plan.  So I take it for what it is, an unfathomable mystery, not one as great and unknowable as some of the mysteries of God, but enough in my little slice of the world to still require me to but my trust in God and let Him guide our lives.

As our kids in particular, and others in our church family struggle with things, I regularly can see if  they are looking through the God lens or not in the conversations we have.  I try very hard to guide them to that lens as I know the personal struggles I have gone through when things get very difficult to just want to grab that lens and throw it as far away as possible.  In my college days and early in my marriage to Nan, I certainly had done this.  I have the hindsight to see how those times in my life I was lost and unsure and not the same person I am now.  I knew God was there, but I leaned much more often to see the world through the common lens rather than the way God wanted me to see it because I was being selfish.  As our kids struggle to determine if they will believe, I want to be able to share what I have learned to keep them focused.  In the last couple weeks two of our kids have told us they have come to know Jesus as their Savior and would like to be baptized.  This is a great blessing, but I well know this can be fleeting.  Just as you can leave your glasses in the car, on the dresser or lost in your coat pocket, it is very easy to just set aside your God lenses and see life a whole other way.

The answer that still eludes me is, what drives someone to make that choice?  What drives them to, and then drives them away from God, from using their God lens?  This I still do not know and may never know.  It is their personal relationship with the Lord and only He can save people.  I as a humble believer can explain how I see Him working in my life, how I see the world through God lenses, and let God use that to want them to get a stylish pair of their own.

The ordinaries

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Family, Midlife

For whatever reason we seem to feel that unless something noteworthy is happening then something is wrong.  As a culture this has been ingrained in us with the flood of news and other programming that just focuses on the sensational. We do not hear anything about the President eating his dinner while helping his kids with his homework, or how Alex Rodriguez had his car towed one day because he got a squirrel stuck in his fan belt.  One could argue that this “public figures” are expected to do great things and so when all we hear about is how President Obama was involved in gun legislation or Alex might be using banned substances, I guess I can buy the argument that we expect more of them.  So let’s take it so the level I’m talking about.  How often do you go to lunch with a colleague and just have them take you through what they made for dinner the last week, or meet up with a friend at a school function and talk about how many loads of laundry were done or if all the kids brushed their teeth or if he mowed his lawn yesterday?  If you are like most, the answer is never, unless of course those events played into some funny story about how while mowing his lawn yesterday he happened to run over the water valve and snap his blade and now he needs to get an expensive repair done.

Yet without this “blocking and tackling” in our lives, the big things can’t happen.  It is in the quiet slog of the ordinary that preparations for the extraordinary take place.  Our pastor talked about this week how as a Christian when we go to work we should WORK.  Not chat around the water cooler for an hour, not gossip about co-workers or do other things.  We should be a model of responsible work.  Once we prepare the table, set the example by quiet consistency not glory hounding, we can experience the feast or the victory of a job well done.  Without those ordinary processes the groundwork is not there for anything special to happen.

Too many parents, especially single parents, feel that just doing the daily tasks does not make them a success.  They don’t hold the exciting job that their child wants them to come in and talk to their class about, or have all kinds of extra money laying around to buy something that their friends will be talking about for years.  As you look back on your life what do you recall about the people in it that meant the most to you?  Were you friends with an Olympian, or did you play pick up football games with your friends, college roomies or work colleagues?  Did you get personal stories written for you by a Pulitzer Prize winner, or were the best things you ever read written by your children, your spouse or a long lost friend who reached out to reconnect on Facebook or some other medium after years of absence?  Did you race in the BMX Supercross Series on expensive equipment or were your off-road experiences on the back of a beat up ATV or a small mini-bike built by your uncle with spare parts from other engines?  Most people live very fulfilled lives and never touch greatness as all, so why are so many of us obsessed by using it to measure our lives?

It is winter right now and in many parts of  the country that means months of grey, bleak days that can cause us to focus more on the fact that each day we just do the dishes, go to work, wash the clothes, feed our families and go to bed.  These things are only dull because we feel they are.  Without them our families would not function and with that our lives would diminish and fade.   So take heart if all you feel you are doing is ordinary.  The greatest things we can provide for our families is the stable ordinary everyday life rather than chaos and drama that causes fear and uncertainty.