The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The 40 Year Long Way 'Round



I think I might start a series called "My Weekly Butt Kicking from Pastor Craig."


Nope - too wordy.

"Pastor Craig Kicks My Butt."

No - just doesn't seem right.

"Kickin' with Craig."

Aahhh - that's the ticket.

(If I was cool and hip and in the know, I'd put something like #kickinwithcraig, but I'm not, so I won't.

Although I might see if I can get my peeps from First Cov to use it. Hee hee hee...)

Let us proceed with the kickin'...

Craig has been working through a series in Exodus called "The Great Escape." (And you should really check it out... the link is right here, and you can find the whole series and more CraigAwesomeness at the First Cov website.) So on a Sunday past, we found ourselves headed out from Egypt, and smack dab at the Red Sea in a sermon titled "Freed To Follow."

We also found out that Craig has never seen "The Ten Commandments." Imagine - never seeing Charlton Heston saying "Let My People GO!" or Yul Brenner saying "Heck NO, NRA Boy!" or Edward G. Robinson being his usual gangster self, only in a tunic, sandals, and a head thingie.

Perish the thought. Craig got some watchin' to do.

Anyway, part one of the kickin' came in this little factoid:

If the Hebrews had went a direct route, they could have hit the Promised Land in just a few weeks.

-But-

God the Master knew that they weren't ready to deal with what that road would bring them, so He took them the long way 'round...

The 40 year long way 'round.

Wha??

Yeah. 40 years of mercy wrapped up in wandering, complaining, learning, and manna.

(Ba-MANNA BREAD!! Ah, Keith Green - we miss you!)

40 years teaching former slaves to be a free nation following God the Master.

Cal's takeaway kickin' from this: When God is refining us, training us, and shaping us, it'll take as long as it needs to take. Not a second more than necessary, but not a second before we're ready either.

Even if it takes 40 years...

Part two of the kickin' is...

God is NOT a travel agent. (I love this picture, Craig!) We don't come to Him, with our destination all picked out, all the things we'd like to see, and all the amenities we want included, so that He can make it all nice and smooth and hopefully cheap.

Rather...

He takes us along the route He decides, to the places He wants us to be. He makes the plan, not us.

I think of it this way: We are deployed. We're sent to where we're needed - either to be the agents of change for the Kingdom He needs us to be, or to places where our training continues.

We're sent - sometimes for short assignments, sometimes long. Sometimes relatively calm places, where we can rest and learn, and sometimes into the middle of conflict, where we face challenge and struggle on all sides.

For the record, this is the only reality that helps me make sense of my nomadic life path - never staying where I'd like to stay, never allowed to put down roots or feel like I'm in my "place." He keeps me moving, keeps me unsettled, and continues to deploy me where He wants me to go.

And, slowly, I'm finally accepting it. 

So far, it's been since 2006 - the 8 year (and counting) long way 'round. Truthfully, it's been much, much longer - the 32 year long way 'round since my best friend became my bride, and a longer long way 'round since leaving my home town and coming to Grand Rapids - I guess I'm really on the 55 year long way 'round, and there's no end in sight.

Which brings us to the third kickin'...

The cloud and the fire.

Every step of the 40 year long way 'round, God went before them.

Not behind, watching them hit struggle after struggle. Not above, sitting on a cloud in a long white robe watching the little ants go marching one by one...

But, before them.

Ahead of them.

Already knowing the way ahead, already knowing the challenges they would face, and already providing what they would need to keep going.

Oh, and hearing their muttering, complaining, and general crabbing all along the journey. Imagine a 40 year session of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?"

Every parent who read that just had a major shudder. I know you did.

"AreWeThereYet?HowAboutNow?WhatAboutNow?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?Now?"

Yeah. Whee.

Oh, and don't even get me started about the gold cow. Edward G., you're goin' DOWN...

(That won't make any sense to folks like Craig, who've committed the egregious sin of never having seen the movie. And yet, I still love you.)

God the Master plans the path we need. God the Master know just how long it will take to bring us through the lessons and assignments needed to have us end up just where He wants us.

And God the Master goes before us. Always.

Thanks, Lord. Message delivered by your servant Craig, and received by your kiddo Calbert.

#kickinwithcraig - a hashtag whose time has come.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Reconnection


One of the "gigs" I find myself in lately is working at the airport...

I pause to allow you, dear reader, to be a tiny bit envious. I don't blame you at all - Honestly, I do an internal happy dance every time I get to use the phrase, "I work at the airport."

**Woo hoo!!**

See? There I go again.

As someone who really does get geeked at the opportunity to hang around an airport, there are a number of sights that I don't think I'll ever grow tired of...

-- The glow of lights on the landing field - since I work nights, I get to see them every time I arrive.

-- Lights in the control tower as I walk toward the terminal. Again, I get to see them every night.

(I'd really really REALLY love to get into the tower sometime, but I don't think that'll ever happen - I don't even think the "I'm a newbie and got lost" excuse would work, let alone the "What do you mean this isn't the bathroom"? excuse. Either of those would probably lead to me getting an ever-so polite talking to by the fine and friendly folks in the blue uniforms with the shiny badges...

Ain't nobody got time for that.)

Back to the sights I see...

-- Looking at planes going up, coming down, and parking at the gates.

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? I did? Good...)

(I'm going to ask my boss if there's any chance I could also train to work on the ramp - I want to be one of the cool kids in the reflective vests with the magic glow sticks of authority that have the power to steer a big ol' plane nose onto a little mark on the concrete.

That'd be fun. Also might induce slight moisture in one's neither regions - this would, after all, be a big ol' plane nose, heading STRAIGHT FOR YOU. 

**Woo hoo!!**

But with great power comes great responsibility - no making the plane do donuts or something just to see if the crew would actually do it. Bad Calbert. Very VERY bad Calbert.

Besides, I think the pilots would just run my sorry hiney over, and rightfully so.)

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? I did? Oops - my bad.)

One more sight at the airport that I don't think I'll ever get tired of: Watching people. Watching passengers as they disembark - sure. Although at the hours I work, the look on their faces is usually something like, "FINALLY!!" It's still worth watching, but let's face it - by the time they pass by little ol' me, they're rung out and ready for their jammies.

But the folks I especially like to watch are the people who are waiting for someone to arrive. It's always changing, from men and women waiting to catch sight of their beloved coming around the curve of the exit, to groups of folks waiting for someone to return from far away. Sometimes they're a bit wrung out too, having been shoved into extra innings when the plane they're waiting for gets delayed for an hour... or two...

That all seems to melt away though, when whoever they're waiting for comes around the bend and into their line of sight.

(And don't even get me started about how teary I get when one of the amazing men or women of the armed forces comes home... *sniff sniff*)

They hold signs, they bring flowers, or they greet their loved one with the biggest hug imaginable. Children run to mom or dad, families wrap their arms around grandparents, and friends have long looks into each other's eyes as they measure the time since they last saw each other.

They reconnect.

And I ponder this:

When I'm apart from those I love, even for a short time, am I as overjoyed to see them as someone waiting for a passenger?

I often say, and yea verily I still say, that my beloved's smile lights up the room for me.

-But-

Do I remember to tell her that?

Or do I let the ho-hum routine of each day take that away from me? Do I fail to bask in the brightness of that smile, because the daily grind has ground me down?

Too often, all that passes between us when I see her is a simple "Hi." Then a "Hi" back. We get in the car, we drive home. We carry our stuff in from the car, the way we do almost every single day. We may chat a little, or talk about something we need to do. I might chatter about my day, or she might chatter about hers.

But, if I'm honest, far too often we don't reconnect - not like folks waiting at the airport. And I think I lose something along the way because I don't make the effort to show her my absolute joy at being with her once again.

So, am I the only one who might get ground down with the daily routine like this?

No?

I didn't think so - we all miss so many opportunities to reconnect.

There's another example of reconnecting in our own home - our beloved BekaV. And she never, ever gets bogged down in the daily grind. She doesn't even know what a "grind" is - all she knows is that she's a dog and she's totally geeked to be one.

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? Twice? Only twice? You got off easy...)

Every time we've been away and she's been in her pen, (It doesn't matter if it was an hour or all day...) she has her little ritual of reconnection... She comes out of the pen, usually to me first, and ducks her head, rubbing it along my legs, pressing into me with those ridonkulously strong legs hard enough to knock me over if I'm not careful. She wants me to touch her, to hug her and pet her.

Then she runs to my beloved for the same treatment.

Then back to me.

Then back to her.

Then back to me where I mention that she should go outside with momma, and she finally runs full-tilt to the door, where momma has been patiently waiting.

Now, if she didn't get enough affection, she'll sometimes run back to me for one more cuddle, and then I'll get her going toward the door. She finally goes out, and the ritual is completed.

- Except -

When she comes back in, she's not quite done with me. She'll run in, come find me, and do more head ducking until she's satisfied.

Thus endeth the ritual of reconnection. Amen. Woof woof.

So, let me add to my ponderable thingie:

When I'm apart from those I love, even for a short time, I should be as overjoyed to see them as someone waiting for a passenger coming in after a long flight.

OR as a certain fur-clad cuddleball, wanting to duck her head, get some lovin' and try to knock me over with her powerful legs.

Yeah. That.

So, the next time I've been away from my beloved, I'll run up to her, bump my head into her knees, and almost knock her over with my (not-so) powerful legs.

Wait - something about that doesn't seem right...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron

When a file meets metal, some beautiful things can result...

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

"Iron sharpens iron" can be the productive work of a file in the hands of a jeweler, or it can be the destructive work of two swords clashing, producing only sparks and damaged blades.

There is a signal that Vicki can give me when necessary - and it's likely that she could do it right in front of you and you'd totally not catch it.

(And no, it's not a swift kick under the table. You've watched too many old comedies.)

The signal is to let me know that I might be getting too excited, or too "into" something, and might be allowing my emotional balance to slip. It's not a slap, not a "Stop it!" or even a "Dude - dial it back!" It's simply a gentle encouragement to be aware, to assess, and to dial it back if I find that the balance is indeed off.

How do I know that's exactly what it means? Or that she's not saying something more forceful when she gives me The Signal?

Because we decided what the signal means when I gave her permission to assist me in that way.

(And don't confuse The Signal with The Look - bane of all husbands everywhere, capable of burning one right through their eye sockets all the way down to their shoes.
*shudder*)

There's another signal that I share with those that I trust and love, again giving them permission to assist me.

When and if I see The Signal, from those few I have trusted with it, I know that my response must be one of gratitude, as I take stock of my emotions and regain control.

And it takes a lot of love and trust to open yourself up that way, so that your reaction to even subtle correction isn't like a spoiled, tired toddler in the cereal aisle. 

*WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!*

Yeah. That.

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

I notice something here right away - It's not just any random person who gets to come along and start scraping along on me - it's a friend. 

In the over 4 years now since my surgery and my ReBirth, the support of so many people has mean more to us than we could ever express. The way they've joined us in giving praise to God for this amazing gift has carried us through all the tough stuff and straight into absolute gratitude. Their enthusiasm, care, concern, questions, astonishment and open-handed support have kept us on this new path with great joy.

- But -

With the best intentions, some folks turn into the Plate Police.

They don't mean to, I'm sure - they're excited about my new life, and they want to see me live into this and not go back. And they've probably either heard the stories or known someone who had "the surgery," and then regained all the weight or ended up heavier than they were before the surgery, and are now sicker than they ever were before.

So, because they know or have heard of those people, they intensely want to make sure their friend Calbert doesn't end up that way.

Enter the Plate Police.

And I enter the goldfish bowl - my intake, my existence, my choices become open to public scrutiny.

And that's hard to live with.

They do this with the best intentions, usually quietly, simply observing, but sometimes asking piercing little questions. ("Can you really eat that?" "Isn't that going to make you sick?" "I thought fat was bad for you... that really doesn't hurt you?") It's all intended to help, to remind me to stick to what I'm doing, but the problem is they haven't been given the green light to help in that way.

Those stories they know about others that have had "the surgery?" It could be one of a number of procedures - and each one has a different maintenance plan. What I'm eating at any moment? It's all a matter of the balance for the whole day, not just one meal. Quantity? It depends on what I've eaten so far that day, how far off or behind I am on my protein balance, and what I'm doing after the meal I'm eating - sometimes I overload on protein because it's going to be a long time before I can take more in, and this will help me get through.

And yes, there are procedures where one must live a low or non-fat diet for the rest of their life. But that's not the case for a DS patient - in fact, I have to have a certain amount of fat to keep my system functioning correctly. I have to practice moderation, just as everyone does, but a little handy fact helps: Of the fat I take in, about 80% of it passes straight through.

Yes, that does tick off some of my fellow surgery patients who have to live non-fat for the rest of their lives. It also ticks off some of the "non-altered" humans who know me. 

Let me state one more time how much I appreciate the support from friends and family. Vicki and I can't thank you enough.

But sometimes the only way iron can sharpen iron is when it's in the hands of a close friend. A friend whose been given "permission" to wield the file, polish the metal, and help to refine who and what I am. 

So saddlepals, consider this:

To be given permission to speak into someone's life, to help them see their blind spots or to challenge them in their walk is a gift - a gift that comes with great responsibility, that isn't given lightly, and that is earned way, way before it's given.

It's the result of walking together deeply, intimately, and with great love. It's a byproduct of loving one another, not a perk of being a Jesus follower. And it's not lightly given. To open yourself to that kind of input from someone else takes a lot of trust, knowing that their heart is one of love.

And it's usually a two-way street, knowing that as they speak into your life, they trust you to speak into theirs. After all...

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reassurance From Looking Back


Sometimes, when we're struggling to accept our own value and worth as bearers of Imago Dei and dearly loved children of our Father, a look back will change things.

Lemmie 'splain.

I'm a musician, so a big piece of my creative life is found in the pursuit of creating and performing music. 2 CDs of my own, playing on a number of others, part of the worship team at 1st Cov, as well as one of the organists - yeah, music is a big piece of my creative life.

A really big piece.

With fluffy topping.

But no sprinkles - that'd be silly. 

When someone close to us made a low-key, offhanded comment, they really didn't know how deep of a hit to my core that was. I don't know if they had inventoried just how few of my CDs had actually sold, or were basing this comment on the fact that I still didn't seem to be working, providing income, taking care of my family, or otherwise justifying my existence. Whatever - they were prompted to speak.

And thus they spake:

"So... I guess you're not going to be making any more CDs."

(And yes, the host would say at the point, "Ooh - sorry. That wasn't in the form of a question.")

So, with that one statement that they did spake, lo my Ship of Battle was struck broadside, and verily did sink.

"C (for Calbert) 32.5."  *pause for counting all the heck the way over to 32, then seeing that the little thing was indeed jammed onto the space between 32 and 33* "Hit." *sigh.*

I guess putting my train transport on P-9 3/4 was a dead giveaway...

No, I'm not blaming the total tailspin in my musical world (and losing a lot of my creative output) on this one little comment. Nothing in the world is as simple as that. It's just how gestalt** tends to work - a little something here, a little something there, a pile of CDs over here, no one coming to a coffeehouse gig there, etc. The whole weighs a lot more than the sum of the parts - it weighs enough to sink a battleship.

And slowly, things shut down. I stopped planning the new CDs (the hymn series), even thought I already had laid it out to four CDs, and had some arrangements slotted for each of them; I shelved the next Christmas album; and basically I walked away from creating my own music and finding places to perform it, just playing the occasional gig that shows up.

The biggie - at those few gigs I stumble across, I don't play many of the songs that I put on my first CD. In other words, I stopped playing my own music.

This, then, indicates a problem.

Forward by a couple of years...

As the music world continues to turn, the idea of digital single releases comes into reality - being able to release not only an album, but singles digitally, avoiding some of the expense involved in producing a entire CD at once, and having it printed.

That can result in being able to release new music frequently, instead of waiting years (and years) for a whole new project, thus helping build your audience and spread the word about your music.

Unfortunately, that can also result in the music sounding like it was made in your back room, without taking the time to be refined, polished, and generally made presentable for public consumption.

Ain't nobody got time for that...

It was always my intent to do a second Christmas album, called "Christmastide." My "WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas" album about Advent - the time leading up to Christmas, and "Christmastide" was intended to be more of a celebration of the day itself. So the other day, I listened through the cuts that exist for that project - either as sketches or as full songs, thinking about the possibility of releasing some singles for the Christmas season.

And, with all modesty intended, the following thought thunked its way through my head...

"Some of these thingies are pretty darn good."

If you know me at all, you understand how unusual it is for me to say something like that about my own music. If you don't know me at all, well...

First - Hi, I'm Cal.

Second - my attitude about my own giftedness can be summed up in my life statement:

Never Believe Your Own Press Releases.

So, for me to find good, yea even joy, in listening to something I created? Pretty astounding. Pretty darn astounding. Pretty darn honkin' astounding.

With sprinkles. Who cares if it's silly - it's worth it, dadgumit.

So this thought that thunked in my head opened a little window, let a little light into a dark place I had closed off, and reminded me that I am gifted, that God gave me these gifts for a purpose, and I really do love using those gifts to make refrigerator art for my Daddy.

If I'm able to polish some of those nuggets in time, I'll get them out through my connection with Loudr, and you better believe my 4.78 peeps that read the blog will not only know about it first, but get a little special somethin' before anybody else - because you guys ride this ride with me. And I loves ya more than my luggage. (That's a quote from the Pioneer Woman - by the way, Ree, I'm still looking for that invite sometime to come play for your peeps there in Oklahoma. A man's got to dream, right?)

So here's the thing we can all carry home:

We can sometimes find affirmation, reassurance, or at least some hope from looking back.

(This, by the way, is why you hear me say a lot about "raising stones" - putting up those reminders of where God has shown up in undeniable ways.)

We can (and should) raise stones of places or times where we were so in His arms that the world seemed to go away for a while...

Where we found such peace and delight that we were free to make refrigerator art without any inhibitions and bring them to our Daddy, saying "Look what I made for YOU!!", seeing His delighted smile when He takes our finger painting and sees a masterpiece...

Like a couple of CDs, for example - "Angelica's Waltz," an album about restoration right on the heels of being laid off and having the wrecking ball take everything out from under me; and "WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas," expressing a deep love of Advent, and the need to prepare for the King's arrival all year long. They're a couple examples of my finger painting, hung on His refrigerator with joy. Regardless of how many I've sold, or how many people know about me because of them, the main point is they are expressions of love for my Father, and that's all they need to be.

So, my dear ones...

Feeling like your ship got blown out of the water? Having trouble seeing yourself as the wondrous, gifted bearer of the Image that you are? Forgotten that our Father loves His kiddos, and He loves it when they make refrigerator art for Him?

Take a look over your shoulder. Look where your Daddy has moved. And look at those times where you held up something less-than-perfect but filled with love, and said "Look what I made for YOU!"

Remember His delighted smile. And go create.

** Gestalt - "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Beka Is SO Weird (A Humorous Interlude)


The following scenario plays out pretty much every time a certain furry critter in our house gets her hungry on. And it's something she's done since she became a part of our family...

So, here's the drill...

She wanders over to her pen, browses through the various things in there, like some sheets she can toss around or lay on, a couple of toys she can chew on, her water bowl (always an important part of her daily requirements), and then peruses the bowl o' kibble.

*hmmm...*

She'll sniff around the bowl, analyzing the kibbley fragrance therein, then gently reach in, pick up a few nuggets of kibble goodness...

And bring them out to the rug in front of my chair, munching them there.

If things are up to m'lady's usual standards, she'll head back into the pen and proceed with the rest of the meal.

If she's unsure, she'll head back into the pen, pick up a few more nuggets of kibble goodness, bring them back out to the rug in front of my chair, and once again sample the kibble du jour.

After the second tasting, the possible outcomes could include:

Another sampling o' kibble; A final decision to commit and munch down the bowl (and yes, I do mean that literally - she'll down the kibble, belch thunderously, and grab her bowl to fling around...); Or, she could decide that she's not really in the mood for kibble, whereupon she'll grab some of those sheets I mentioned and bury her bowl under them.

We've never had a dog who had such a complicated process in place to decide things in matters of the munchies. I'm not sure if it's the Ibizan Hound equivalent of casting lots, or the doggie version of the Urim and Thummim, or... um...

No clue. I got nuttin'.

But none of our previous dogs have engaged in such a complicated ritual...

Two of them were certified Hoovers - put the bowl down, doggie proceeds to suck up the kibbley goodness, hopefully taking time to chew at least a little.

(The second of those, Ezzie the Wonder Dog, had to have some help to slow her down - a bowl with obstructions she had to dig around, or a kibble ball she had to bat around to get the food out of. She still horfed the stuff down in an alarmingly rapid fashion. Ah well.)

The one between the Hoovers, Kira (our Husky, and absolutely momma's girl...) was a slow and dainty eater, totally on her terms and her schedule.

So no, we've never really had one like Beka. The whole "take a taste test, then consider what to do next" thing is all new to us.

And really weird.

Where did she learn this? What inner calling or instinct led her to pretend she's at Costco on a super Saturday sample day, "where kids eat free always?"

I'm sure that I'll never know.

(Don't laugh - I know someone whose idea of taking the kids out to eat was just that - hit the samples, hit 'em multiple times, and repeat until the kids are full. Really really REALLY embarrassing... and I wasn't even there. Just heard the tales afterward. *shudder*)

Although I don't think that dogs have immortal souls, I'd be delighted to be wrong about that and meet up with Beka someday where the lion and lamb lay down together.

And I'd be even more delighted if the Narnia model turned out to be true and we could talk with our furry friends.

And I'd ask her, "What the HECK was that all about??"

Now THAT would be heavenly.

I've been trying to think of a spiritual application for this whole bundle of fluffy... other than "Taste and see that the Lord is good," that is.

So far, nuttin'.

And maybe that's alright. Sometimes we can just observe the oddities around us that make us wonder, and leave it at that. We can ponder the quirks and craziness, the weird and wonderful, and simply sit back and smile. No deeper meaning needed - just enjoy the little things  reminding us that God has a really great sense of humor.

Oh - watch out for the kibble burp. It'll arrive about 30 seconds after the kibble goes bye bye. Yowza.

And if you value your sanity (And sense of smell - or so I've been told, since I'm incapable of experiencing the full impact...), DON'T be standing behind her when she goes into a full-length stretch. Trust me on this, my peeps. *shudder* Trust me.

Just stand back (Well away from the stern...), wonder, smile, and enjoy God's weird world.

Sometimes that's enough.