A Look Back

Today is August 20th and do you know what that means? Well, except for some friend’s 20th anniversary, very little — hey Stan and Brenda, you guys rock!

I was doing the odd bit of figurative navel gazing earlier today and realized that while historically this day holds little significance in my life, July 15th did… and not just because it was my firstborn’s 22nd birthday. Nope. July 15th was my 4th blog’versary and to celebrate in fitting fashion I shall see just how often I can use the superscript tag. That would be 7 in just the 1st two paragraph alone; uh, make that 8.

I took some time to look back over some old posts and wondered which I thought best represented a look ‘inside’ if you will. Some of what you may see is not all that flattering; some is downright rude. Perhaps one of the better posts for providing a glimpse may just be one of those meme thingies. Or, maybe simply my story.

I have also enjoyed the opportunities to release some pent up creativity. I have used some fun online writing prompts such as the one to describe the kitchen of my childhood. Another prompt was to share my greatest fear. There have other dabblings in poetry, including the odd haiku; mostly rather dark though. Except for this one. Sometimes a post’s purpose is no more than to give me a chuckle.

There have been the occassional look into the family; especially the kids. I suspect that my Daughter has gotten the most press. I mean, she is a sweetheart! Yes, a sweetheart, but she also knows just how to play her Dad. I suppose it is somewhat cliche’ for a father to say I am proud of my Son. But, I am… quite. Then there’s my Bride. She still has that touch.

I haven’t written a whole bunch about my parents; noticeablly so my Mom. I suspect moms hold a place that we don’t really let others peek into. I don’t know. I did share about my Dad and an evening after baseball practice that continues to be a huge touchpoint in my life. Looking back, I suspect my Dad’s impact was typically more subtle than I may have realized. Even now, my Dad having passed away seven years ago, my Brother and I hold his memory rather gently.

Something else I have enjoyed writing about almost as much as experiencing, has been people I have met and then taking the time to consider the moment. I don’t do this nearly as much as I think needs to be done; considering the moment that is. I think back on people like saints such as Mrs. S. Now, while I treasure the opportunity to meet a variety of people, and I hope it is just but a beginning, there are some experiences that have been a bit more troubling.

Yes, I have enjoyed this look back and I was also going to include a list of bloggers that played a role earlier on in both helping me get set up as well as encouraging me. Yes, I was going to include a list… but, since I have a habit of forgetting, I want to avoid inadvertantly missing someone. Suffice it to say that you all are appreciated. Thank you!

Given Enough Time

I step outside this morning to retrieve the recycle and trash bins from the curb and boof, I walk through a massive spiderweb. I wipe the mess from my face and continue down the driveway. I reach for the larger container and grab the handle and boof, another spiderweb. OK, so now I pause at every change in my surroundings that may present a convenient construction site for my arachnid neighbors and wave my arm about as though I’m in a dark attic with no recollection of the layout.

Dylan wonders into the woods behind the house and I follow; arm waving. He looks back at me as if to say, “looks like fun but I don’t get it.” “OK”, I think. “You’re right. I look silly.” The flailing subsides. Dylan chooses a substantial looking stick and we make out way back to the house. We climb the bank from a different angle than we came down since it provides more trees to grab onto to help our ascent. I grab a smallish Dogwood tree and swing myself around to a small landing a BOOF… spiderweb… face… yuck!

Now, I can appreciate the vision of the developer of these webs. I mean, if they actually worked like he hoped, I would be enough to feed he and his kin for generations too numerous for me to count. But simple physics should inform him that my mass and his engineering skills are not a fair match up. Then I got to thinking… if there is anything to this idea of evolution, then with further analysis and continued real life testing, these critters should be able to someday catch such a prey as I and do their ancestors proud. All they have to do is learn from their attempts and then try again. While I and my descendants are flailing our arms about like a pack of plodding pinwheels, they will be evolving toward the feast of generations.

Political Rally Like No Other

During my recently ended, semi-intentional, two month, blog sabbatical I had the incredible experience of attending a tour event for the book “Jesus for President”. The event here in Raleigh was sponsored by the local Mennonites and the NC Council of Churches.

I could summarize the book, but that’s been done better than I am able, and that’s not the only one. I could summarize the evening, but my friend Meredith has done a super job of that already. I can try to give you a sense of what I have taken from the event.

Let me start out by saying that heaven will be abundantly stocked with stringed instruments and I am not talking harps. I had the pleasure of helping with setup the afternoon of the event. After helping to unload the WVO fueled bus, I made my way into the room where the event was going to take place and I saw the ‘praise band’ setting up. There before me is something I have never seen before. To be honest, I don’t know that I would’ve ever expected such a thing. A ‘praise band’ with a banjo player complete with overalls and a floppy hat. Now, if you don’t find that stinkin’ cool I’d be tempted to doubt you’ve prayed the right prayer.

This ‘praise band’ that I speak of were members of The Psalters. The Psalters are…

…a nomadic community of psalmists. Currently 8 people, 2 dogs, 1 robot, 2 ships. More than 100 psalters from 12 countries have been involved over the years. We are on the road after our First Love, the refugee King… for whom we pledge our only allegiance. It?s not only us… we?re just the banner wavers of a little army out here just beyond your city walls. You can come along if you?re a miserable wretch… but unfortunately there is not enough room for the generally good people. Don?t fret. You wouldn?t like this road… it?s dirty (and greasy). I must tell you this much however… i can?t see much of anything behind those gates of yours and there is not much of a breeze to feel… out here it hurts… outside the gates… but i can feel and i can see… a little better. outside there is a Pillar of Fire.

Now, I realize that this music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I so thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the evening. To give you a sense of their music, here is a little diddy called Dumpster Divers click to play. As you can hear they have a very earthy sound. At times their music sounds like right out of the 19th century American South such as with this tune called Dig It Up click to play. The simplicity of their music is what I think really hangs with me. It can be simple and pretty as with Agnus Dei click to play or it can be simple and haunting like All You Who Are Weary click to play. At other times their music has a definate Middle East flavor. This is nowhere as poignant than with their rendition of The Lords’ Prayer click to play… simply powerful. Their’s is the oatmeal of praise music, the stuff that sticks to your ribs.

Since it was a book event and not a concert, let me leave you with a quote from the back of the T-shirt I bought that evening.

Forget donkeys and elephants, long live the Slaughtered Lamb!

My Life As A Chew Toy

Allow me to introduce Dylan. He is a Labrador Retriever of the yellow persuasion. You’ll notice his coloring is a bit different from what you commonly see. He has the eye and nose coloring of a Chocolate Lab; green eyes and a liver colored nose. This is a totally acceptable coloring for the breed, but is just not common. We have grown so used to it that the dark nose and eyes that you typically see on Yellow Labs now looks peculiar to us. Dylan was born on June 9, 2007 and came to live with us at eight weeks of age. He is now 14 months old and every ounce of his 85 pounds is still pure puppy.

I can not think of a period of time in my life that did not include a dog. The list ranges from Dachshunds to St. Bernards. Most, however, have been mutts. Anyone who has had different breeds of dogs knows how each breed has certain characteristics and personality traits common to it. We had a Dalmatian for 13 years who simply longed to please. She also had a lot of energy. Our Corgi, being a herding breed, liked to think he was in charge… always… no excuses. What I am learning to love about Labrador Retrievers is that they are the quintessential dog. Dylan lives to fetch sticks. In lieu of any other distractions, he will sit and chew said stick until there is little left but a stub and a pile of wood -ships- chips. Oh, and don’t get between him and a body of water. The first time we had him at the park, he walked over to the lake and proceeded to step on in. There was no, “hmm, what’s this?” Nope, it was, “hey, this is cool!”

When Dylan is out in the yard he is off-leash. From day one he has not had a tendency to wander. When he is caught up in the various scents and goings-on outside he will regular check to see where his master is and makes it a point to stay near. He has, however, expanded his territory a bit by allowing the neighbors to become among his best friends. If there is someone out working in their yard, he invites himself over for a neighborly chin rub and a quick update on the surrounding scents.

While Dylan is still very energetic and inquisitive, he has thankfully out grown the puppy teething phase. He is such a sweetheart, but when the gums were bothering him he could not resist a good chew. Even though we kept a reasonable supply of allowable chewables, he often would prefer an arm or wrist — especially if it happened to be giving him a rub down at the time.

On The Loose

Last summer I wrote how the group of believers I hang with have a tradition of taking one Sunday a summer and venturing out and worshipping with a different faith community. Some join a neighbor at their place of worship, some go as small groups and some just venture out on their own. I think it works best if you are able to experience something that you may never have before; something out of your comfort zone perhaps.

This year my son and I and another father and son met at the local Friends Meeting. Being from the Quaker State, I am somewhat familiar with what a Quaker is historically, but I had never seen one in the wild.

We were greeted graciously and made to feel very welcome. It was explained to us that the Raleigh Friends Meeting was ‘unprogrammed’ — no pastor and no order of worship. They spend “First Hour” in quiet — “expectant waiting”. The room is oriented so that four groups of seat point toward the center. If someone feels led, they stand and speak or give “vocal ministry”. Speakers are expected to discern the source of their inspiration — whether divine or self. “First Hour” is brought to a close (rise of Meeting) by a designated person shaking their neighbors hand which is then repeated around the room. There is then some time for coffee and tea followed by the “Second Hour” which is very much like Sunday School.

Our greeter also mentioned — almost as a second thought — that they try and “see that of God in everyone.” So greeting for her is “a way of welcoming the Divine.” I am still processing that and I am thinking it could be quite helpful if more of us saw “that of God” in others. Imagine walking by and not smiling at God. Imagine not stopping and sharing what you have with God. Imagine hurling a spiteful insult at God. Imagine dropping a bomb on God…

The first twenty minutes of worship found my mind jumping around and rather active. About twenty minutes in I finally calmed. There were still things going through my mind but they were more of a flow and less of a jumble. I was remembering a Rob Bell video I recently watched where he was talking about the name of God (YahWeh) and how it sounds like breathing. He continued with this thought in that the first act of life we all perform is saying the name of God and that the last thing we will do in this life is say the name of God.

As I sat there in quiet I could hear several people calling the name of God. One near by was somewhat more hurried than others; nervous even. Another was very methodical and respectful. I looked down and near my feet were shadows of tree branches and leaves dancing in the breeze outside the window. I considered how all of creation is ‘breathing’.