Monday, September 27, 2010

Let It Mellow, Randomness

  • We made a pit-stop during a road trip a few weeks ago. We stopped at a "green" Meijer to use the restrooms. Everything was set up to conserve resources. Because it was green, I used the green rules: if it's yellow, let it mellow. I did my part. I was not the first.
  • On a related note, potty training a toddler can be taxing. Even when he's been bluffing all day, you can't chance that this might be the one time he's serious. There's nothing like being in the middle of nowhere and hearing, "Pee please!" from the back seat with emphasis on the please.
  • Modern weddings can get complicated can't they? We just attended a simple ceremony in an old converted church. The church was set up with two rows of pews. Tradition would say one half is for the bride's family, the other for the groom's. It doesn't really work that way when there have been one or more divorces on either, or both, sides. It can make things awkward on many different levels.
  • We avoided taking our sons to the actual wedding ceremony. I never want to be the parent that has to stand up during such a sacred event and scurry out with an oblivious kid. That parent was still at this wedding, so we would have been unnecessary anyway.
  • The boys proved that they're not ready for receptions anyway.
  • The highlight of the entire wedding for Owen and Gage was tormenting the ants they found outside. Owen wanted to stomp them until I asked him whether he'd enjoy someone stomping him or not. We're still trying to explain empathy, life, and death to him. Gage kept picking the poor things up as if they were toys. He was then perplexed when they permanently stopped crawling around.
  • My cousin Jeff is an awesome chef. He made all of the food for my aunt's wedding. The garlic broccoli was phenomenal.
  • Using alcohol as a tool to resolve/reveal family/emotional matters, is like using a chainsaw to cut pancakes. You might achieve your goal, but the pieces left behind are often unrecognizable and inedible.
  • All of our eye surgeries are over. Gage was surprisingly cooperative until we arrived in the pre-op area of the 600 building. It was as if he'd forgotten the first visit altogether until he saw the hospital gown. It wasn't too bad though. He was very bi-polar after his sedative. One moment he was happily playing the 'name that body part' game, the next he was telling me I was bad.
  • I'm often the 'bad cop' parent. I've made my peace with it. I remove bandages, administer bad tasting medicine, and generally offer up the bad news more honestly.
  • I need some kind of badge that identifies me as the type of guy that doesn't hunt, fish, fix cars, or watch sports. It would make for fewer awkward conversations with new acquaintances. It would likely make for fewer conversations altogether, but I'd rather be up front about it.
  • I do love the woods. I love to hike. Fishing's not all bad, but it's often boring to me. I like the conversation that comes with it more than anything. I can fix a few things on a car. I can diagnose a few things that have popped up in my own vehicles over and over again. I can even change my own oil. I do like to attend sporting events. I just can't watch sports on television for more than about fifteen seconds. I would rather watch women play most sports.
  • I enjoy talking about books I've read, music, and movies.
  • I'm trying to resist plugging in a space heater today.
  • Last week Owen learned not to climb the wrong way up slides, a lesson we've drilled into him for years. When I reminded him of this, he replied, "Yeah, but I did it while the teacher wasn't looking." He apparently learned the lesson when the other kids were caught.
  • We've observed him, numerous times, tell his playmates that he can't do this or that because he's been taught that the particular action is bad, but when things like the slide lesson come up, I often wonder if I'm just one of the worst parents ever. It just seems like we're rarely getting through to him, and it's even more rare when he seems to fully understand the reasoning behind the lessons.
  • On a brighter note, I think we're closer to the 99% potty trained zone with Gage.
  • I took Owen to our local Halloween store yesterday. It's a yearly tradition. He didn't seem to be afraid of much last year, but he really didn't like the animatronics this time around. He asked me if they had a back door we could leave through so he didn't have to return to that area.
  • He loves all of the spiders, bats, and creepy crawly bug merchandise out right now. He keeps asking if he can have the larger spider decorations for Christmas this year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

…Because I love my Babylon.

I love this song, and the entire Jacaranda album by Josh Garrels.

I did this lyrical breakdown as a graphic. The song is split into two halves.

The song is called, Zion & Babylon.

Click on the graphic to make it larger.

I live on both sides, but once I saw/felt/tasted/experienced Zion(Heaven) the value of anything on the other side diminishes quickly (and hopefully permanently).

You can listen to the song and the entire album, here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The BM Fairy, Tea Partying, and The Cat in the Hat. My Random 2¢ this Week

  • I'm still adjusting to Owen's school schedule.
  • He didn't want to go back the second day. He didn't really have a concrete reason other than he seemed to resent the teacher's authority a bit. I had to dig out the old story my mom told me when I was his age. "If you don't go to school, Mama and Papa will get in trouble. The police will come and take us away for being bad parents." That actually did the trick.
  • I asked him what he learned on his second day of school. His reply, "We learned that it's not okay to spit."
  • The crossing guard is actually a hinderance to me. I find myself wanting to be polite by crossing the street with her assistance. In reality, it would be quicker and likely safer to just cut straight up the parking lot. It doesn't help that we're one of two families that actually walk our kids to school this year. She seems to know the other family personally. Dang crossing guard.
  • Heidi commented that she thinks I get the boys up and moving way too early. I reminded her of all the "delays" that often come up when dealing with our children.
  • I think we're going to have to start getting up even earlier. The Bowel Movement Fairy seems to show up about eight minutes before our latest departure window.
  • All the other parents make me feel old. They're younger than me, but their kids are older than mine.
  • Gage loves the buses. He races home shouting, "Come on! Come on!" He stands on the front porch and watches them drive past. It's like his own personal parade every day.
  • Hurray for PBS. Another hit kids show started this season with The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. The cat is voiced by Martin Short. It has catchy songs. My kids love it.
  • "Let's go-go-go-go on an adventure! The Thing-a-muh-jigger is up and away!"
  • I locked myself out of the house a week ago today. It was a cold morning. I wore a jacket to drop Owen off and absentmindedly stuck my keys into the jacket. As I left the house later, I didn't need the jacket.
  • On a related note, pay phones are almost non-existant anymore. Gage and I walked a mile before we found one. It was a crazy looking contraption owned and operated by a phone company I've never heard of. It was charging $1 per four minute call. The problem being, it never connected me with anyone, and it still kept my money.
  • I ended up resorting to calling collect. Luckily my dad's answering machine recorded the computerized voice requesting his payment permission and my name. Not knowing exactly what was going on, he came running… without his extra set of keys.
  • In hindsight, I should have asked one of my neighbors for help.
  • On another related note, a cellphone might not be a bad idea. I hate just about everything about them. I already feel enslaved to this computer, email, Facebook…
  • Luckily, we only pay $100 a year for the shared cellphone we already use. If we double that, we're still paying less in a year than many people pay for just a few months.
  • I've heard a few stellar sermons lately. Here are a few links:
  • Dave Flowers, our pastor at Wildwind Community Church did a great sermon called Love. And Hate.
  • Mars Hill, a church closer to Grand Rapids, always inspires me too. Rob Bell hit one out of the park talking about the value of our older neighbors here. He references Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash too. The great story he tells at the end about last year's Pastor's Conference hit home. Having attended the conference, I had often wondered what happened to the pastor in the story. (I'm being vague on purpose).
  • Peter Rollins joined him on this one. Rollins is one of my favorite speakers. Some see him as radical. I really don't see it. Maybe it's the accent.
  • Warning: Political Material Ahead
  • I noticed two guys on a street corner last Sunday. One of them had a bullhorn. The other had a very homemade looking, impossible to read sign. Later I heard that Sunday was the day many Tea Party members were holding curb-side rallies.
  • I agree that neither Democrats or Republicans seem to be pulling off any miracles lately. I agree we might need more diversity in our political system, so I'm somewhat encouraged that a third, very slightly different party is at least winning some elections. I'm just really not encouraged by much that they're saying.
  • I understand the fear that spend, spend, spend will have repercussions, but I want to hear what the alternatives are. I keep hearing that the Tea Party is unhappy with the current administrations ability to create jobs, which implies that they understand there is a lack of available employment opportunities. They then state that they're fed up with people on welfare and unemployment benefits because "those people should just get jobs." I don't understand that disconnect/contradiction.
  • Yesterday they announced that poverty levels are extremely high and growing in our country. If we're going to stop "spend, spend, spend," spending less, what will be offered to these people? I sincerely fear that there are people out there that would be okay with "starve, starve, starve." A huge deficit is a bad thing for this country. I don't disagree with that, but leaving the economically lowest class to fend for itself would be worse in my opinion. It certainly wouldn't solve anything.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The church is a whore…

Disclaimer: Let me start off by saying that I know I'm not perfect when it comes to love/hate, grace/bigotry, acceptance/prejudice. I'm sure there are those of you that could point out some of my shortcomings when it comes to loving other people (and I would appreciate that by the way). The following is not meant to suggest that I've "arrived" or that anyone would mistake me for someone that has it all figured out. It's just a subject that's put my blood to boiling this week. Something I needed to write so maybe I can stop thinking about it quite so much this week.

"The church is a whore, but she is my mother." This quote is attributed to St. Augustine. I take it to mean that the church is messed up, but I love her perhaps because she made me what I am today. A friend of mine reminded me of this quote in an unrelated matter recently. It seemed appropriate for today's subject.

A few months ago famous writer Anne Rice announced that she was leaving the Christian church. She would still be following Christ, chasing after Him, spreading His love, but she couldn't deal with all the hate and dysfunction that she felt coming from her local congregations. Hatred and bigotry shouldn't run so rampant among people who believe that God is love. All too often it seems like it's okay to have ill feelings toward groups of people that don't believe the same things we do, or behave in ways we deem appropriate.

I should point out, to those that might not be familiar, that the term church can mean several different things. There are local churches, there are church denominations made up of hundreds and thousands of churches all over the globe, and there is the overall Christian church as a collective encompassing every Christian church all over the world. I believe Rice is severing ties with the overall church organization, or organized religion as some prefer.

I understood her point of view back then. I'm feeling it even more this week. Every channel you tune into is highlighting a single church that is planning on burning Muslim holy books on September 11th. They're also highlighting many other Christian pastors accusing Islam of being evil or a false religion. The overall message these people are pushing is that we're not a country with freedom of religion, and if we are, yours doesn't count.

There's also the churches that protest funerals carrying signs that claim God hates this group or that group. There are the Christian groups that seem to imply that abortion doctors should be put to death without exactly using those words.

Now, these are often the craziest of the crazy. It seems they always get the spotlight. You never see the countless positive things many churches, mosques, and synagogues do highlighted on the evening news. You usually only get the crazy crust, the fringe as some like to call it, spouting hatred and fundamentalism.

As a Christian, a Christ follower, there are these overarching messages that you would assume any Christian or church would adhere to: Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Love each other. Don't judge. Don't condemn. God is love. God is forgiving. Not only share what you have, but give until you are denying yourself. Lose your life to find life abundant.

How do these messages translate into such negative actions? Burning the Koran? Denying people the right to build a building where they would seek out God? Co-opting funerals with God hates messages?

Even when the bigotry is on a smaller scale, how do you reconcile that with your faith when you encounter it in a church setting? I can testify to the fact that it does happen, even in the best of congregations. On a personal level, it's still very shocking to encounter. It's hard not to turn your back and hightail it out of that particular church, and maybe even that denomination.

The problem is, even in the best of churches, people aren't perfect, no where near. They're not supposed to be. They are supposed to be learning to embrace love and forget hate (I think there's an Ozzy lyric in there somewhere), but that takes time.

It's very hard when you're in a church setting (often outside of the actual church building and not on Sunday) with a group of Christians having just finished up a study of some sort on God's love and grace only to have a discussion start up that involves demeaning other groups of human beings simply because they are of a differing ethnicity or from a different geographical area. You have to wonder if you were the only one paying attention to the material you just covered.

I've often left those situations feeling that it was going to be difficult to return, to that particular setting or to even see those people on Sunday morning. It often bothers me for days. It's hard to take fellow Christians seriously when something like that occurs. Studying God's grace toward sin is difficult when you're expecting the people you're studying with to discuss how worthless certain groups of perceived sinners are shortly afterward.

I know people that would give a stranger the literal shirt off their back, but only if they were certain the stranger wasn't gay or a Muslim. You don't get this picture all at once of course. You see people do amazingly loving things, you marvel at their faith, and later you hear them say shockingly hateful words. It hurts, and it's hard, but you have to learn to extend grace in these situations. You have to just keep praying that their hearts continue to soften toward everyone, even their perceived enemies.

I've been lucky. I've found a good church. A church where I fit well enough. It's diverse, probably more so than most individuals realize on any given week. From one pew to the next you might find drastically different political views, different upbringing, different economic means, and different goals. It's a melting pot that seems to be stronger for its differences. Love and grace are evident. It's not perfect,. Our church suffers through its squabbles, but it has taught me that you have to hang in there. You see, those that hang on to old hatreds, they need those that have given in to love and grace. At the very least, they need you to be uncomfortably silent when off-color, unkind comments are made. It would probably be more appropriate to speak out, and in some cases I have - but it's hard. It's hard not to just jump ship, cut and run.

I understand where Anne Rice is coming from, and I suspect she'll continue to do good in this world, loving people, chasing after God. I can't give up as easily though. I pray there is hope even in the craziest of branches of this thing we call the church. I've seen hope in my branch. Since we're all connected, there has to be hope for the overall body. It's not easy. I was lucky to find a branch I could feel comfortable in. A good branch in my opinion.

A lot of people state that they wish more Muslims would come forward to speak out against the evil actions of a few, to speak out against terrorism. They say the lack of clear voices of opposition are evidence that the religion is itself in favor of such acts. Well, I'm guessing the same could be said of Christian churches that don't speak out against Koran burnings and Mosque protests. Let me be clear, as someone trying very hard to follow Christ, I don't see these things as loving. It's not loving our neighbors, and it's not loving to people we shouldn't see as our enemies in the first place.

I think we need to lock arms with those that are so often portrayed as our enemies and shout as loudly as possible that God is love, and no amount of anger, hate, or fear can change that. But that's just me. I'm just a little twig.