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.

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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You - Follow Me


When I have nothing better to crab about, I'll mutter to my beloved that "I shouldn't bother with this writing crap, since nobody reads it anyway. Besides, everybody writes, everybody blogs, and everybody and their distant relatives is working on a book. So why bother?"

And I'm finally starting to get it through my thick noggin that all that negativity, spewed out with extreme prejudice, is harmful to my beloved. It may (or may not) provide me some relief, via "venting," but it's pretty much a soto voce stream of negative that gathers in her personage and festers.

So it's all well and good (or not) for me to launch that poopy out there, but it's not good (or extremely not) for her. And since I really do love my beloved more than myself (or at least am trying to), I need to head that stuff off before it blasts out my pie hole and smacks her.

All of this has nothing to do with anything I'm thinking about in this present post-thingie, but it's still true... Just not related to this.

And yet...

No. Not really.

On we go...

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what's going to happen to him?”

Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You—follow Me.”
John 21:20-22 (MSG)

The last words of Jesus to Peter... "You - follow Me."

Calbert says, "Master, if I write all this stuff including fluffy silliness, weird humor, and occasional insights that You interject ('cause I sure can't take credit for the good stuff...), what good is it if nobody reads it? If nobody comments or Likes it or Shares it, or nuttin'?"

And the Master says, "What's that to you? You - follow Me."

Calbert says, "Master, why would you ask me to write? It brings no income to our household, it doesn't give me a good answer to the question, 'So, what do you do?', and it causes a bit of eye-rolling (granted, mostly internal eye-rolling) when I respond, 'I'm a writer.' Then comes the whole,'So, what do you write?', and I say, 'Um, fluffy goodness? But... I'm working on a book." (insert more eye-rolling) And then, 'Oh - what kind of book?', and I say, 'Well... it's kind of my story, about how I've been ReBorn.' (insert sound of crickets and silence), so... what about all that, huh? What about that, Master?"

And the Master says, "Dude - that was a run-on sentence the likes of which would have made Paul scratch his head and weep with confusion. Let's simplify...

You - follow Me."

And Calbert says, "Well, what about...?"

And the Master says, "Which part of 'You - follow Me' was unclear?..."

(insert sound of Calbert slapping his hand over his mouth)

"Better. By the way, just to tie something up from what you were thinking about back at the start of this thingie, spewing all those negative thoughts and comments not only messes with your beloved's head (who, by the way, is My dearly loved daughter, and I'm not really delighted when you do that to her...), but it's really bad for your head, and it takes your eyes off the one and only thing that matters... Which is?..."

And Calbert, removing his hand from over his mouth, mutters quietly, "Me - follow You."

"Bingo."

(For the record, I'm not one of those who imagine the Master with blonde hair and blue eyes, but I do imagine dialogue with Him sounds a lot like dialogue in my own voice and manner of speech. I'm fancy like that.)

So, my dears, can I ask you something?

How do you feel when nobody seems to see your hard work, but everybody fawns all over someone else's little effort?

"You - follow Me."

What commentary comes to your lips when some personage makes the "Bonehead of the Month" move right in front of you on the highway, causing you to slam on brakes, almost get crunched, and put every nerve in your body on edge? Especially when they continue on, oblivious to the chaos they just heaped on your plate?

"You - follow Me."

What about the loneliness that comes from feeling like everybody else is "in," and you're "out." You're not only a square peg, but the round hole has been filled in with concrete and is now used as a skate park. You're on the outside, and you can't look in - you can only imagine what wonderful things are going on in there, and you're not invited.

"You - follow Me."

You struggle - physical struggles, mental struggles, financial struggles, or just struggling to hold on to a little hope, a little light in a very dark world. And you seem to be surrounded by people who live totally perfect lives - no issues, no struggles, no darkness. Just light and hope and life.

"You - follow Me."

Is that easy? Is it too simplistic of an answer to our complicated brokenness? Are we trying to apply a gauze pad to a missing limb?

It can certainly seem that way.

- But -

The more you practice it, the more you press into it, the more you accept it as the only reality that makes sense, the more it becomes the only reality that makes sense.

It's freedom in three little words.

It takes off the chains, removes envy from the equation, reminds us all that we are all equally blessed and all equally broken. It becomes hope in the dark, love in our loneliness, and a lifeline when there doesn't seem to be one.

Three little life-changing words...

"You - follow Me."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Entry-Level Attitude



So, here we go again...

I am once again wading into the turbulent waters of part-time employment. Lord help us all.

And, as He seems to take great pleasure in doing, God led me to one job, only to throw in a sharp left turn at the interview, putting me in a different job at the same place that seems to fit me better.

He's fancy like that.

And as the paperwork gets going, uniforms get ordered, and my lengthy tainted background is scrutinized, I think about work...

(About that "tainted background" comment: I kid, I jest, I make a funny... really. No need for anybody who's reading this in connection with a background check to think I'm anything but what I seem to be - slightly quirky, with a weird sense of humor, but totally harmless. Really.)

It's an "entry-level" job, paying a little more than minimum wage. Perhaps not as many hours as I would have hoped, but it's a start. And it leaves some windows to find a second job to fill things in a bit more, or to sell all sorts of stuff and dial our house and life back to better proportions. It also leaves room to write, create, and pursue some of the other "things" God seems to call me to.

Again, He's fancy like that.

So, as I think about another "entry-level" job in my mid-fifties, whereas many of those in a generation before me were well-settled in their careers and the only dramatic change they anticipated involved retirement and a pension, (Not so for this boy and his "nomadic career path" - I really love that description of my journey thus far...) I've arrived at a bit of a revelation:

Having an "entry-level" job doesn't make you an "entry-level" employee.

(Note: I didn't say it was a profound revelation. Nor a groundbreaking revelation, a dramatic revelation, or even a startling revelation. I'm a simple man, and simple stuff is revelation enough for me.)

You can excel, you can shine, you can reflect your Creator at any job, anytime, anywhere.

("Anytime, Anywhere" happens to be a pretty awesome song by Sarah Brightman... And since it's based on Albinoni's Adagio, which happens to be one of my favorite pieces, the awesomeness is twofold...

But the Proofreader doesn't let me listen to that piece too often - the Albinoni, not Sarah Brightman - it may cause weeping, could trigger depression, or result in Calbert being even weirder than he usually is.

Ain't nobody got time for that...)

This rambling line of thinking was shaped in part by our pastor, who shared a story from How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill. Now, I'm not "A Son of Privilege," and I'm part of the Biggby Nation, but still - I saw some dots to connect, and found myself on this train of thought.

More like a boxcar, actually.

One that could easily be pulled behind the Little Engine That Could.

Without making him break a sweat, that is. Or oil. Or whatever it is that Little Engines break out in.

Anyway...

The jobs I seem to be able to get these days are considered entry-level - they usually don't require experience, don't bring a lot of bacon to the table, and tend to have a bit of turnover.

The reason I seem to live at this level in this season of life?

Because in the two areas that, for me, could be called "career paths," (if you have a particularly broad definition and view of that term...) one is in music (performance, not teaching or anything else that would be practical and marketable...); and the other is in broadcasting (radio, actually). But if I were chasing my radio dreams, I'd either be told that my voice is too Winnie-The-Pooh-esque to work in mainstream radio, or I'd be doing a typical radio lifestyle, moving from station to station and town to town - a lot. (For a pretty clear reference on this, listen to Harry Chapin's "W-O-L-D." Way too accurate description of radio life.)

Actually, in this modern age, it's more likely that I simply wouldn't get hired, since only people with astonishing voices get hired, and ship their voice tracking over to whatever station hired them without ever setting foot in the building. If you have a great voice, you can be on many stations at the same time, through the modern miracles of digital audio and technology. And you can make some pretty good coin in the process. Sort of.

If you don't have a great voice, well, that's where we get back to the point of this fluffy goodness...

Entry-level jobs, then, seem to be my gigs in these latter days of my life.

-But-

That doesn't mean I'm an entry-level employee. After all, this ain't my first rodeo... Not by any stretch of the imagination. Even my imagination, and that IS saying something.

No, I'm one of those older folks working an entry-level job, thus denying poor suffering little high school students the opportunity to get their first job experiences, or suffering little college students the opportunity to buy Ramen noodles. Sorry, kids - I got a mortgage, you don't. End of story.

And truly, so far in my entry-level career wandering, the jobs I've had aren't ones that somebody who's on their first time around the block would tend to get. Being a Systems Monitor (my previous gig) may pay minimum wage, but the job requirements demand that you bring a lot more than that to the party. (Including a flack jacket, especially when entering the pharmacy. But I digress...)

My new job calls for integrity, attention to detail, and a willingness to deal with crabby people late at night, sometimes telling them things that they don't want to hear at the end of a long day of travel, and to still remember they are Image bearers, worthy of love and respect. Again, an entry-level job requiring a more-than-entry-level attitude.

So, in the light of that truth, I raise this stone to help me remember:

I may have a so-called "entry-level" job, but that doesn't mean I'm an entry-level employee.

And by rising above "entry-level," I give glory to the One who lifts me above entry-level in all areas of my life.

Entry-level? No - I'm exactly at the level my Father wants me to be at, right here, right now.

(The cynic in me really wants to insert a comment here, to kind of balance the Polyanna-esque vibe of that last statement... It was almost too "bright and cheery" to be something I said, let alone actually believe.

And yet, I can't - I said it, and I believe it.

"He who dealt it shall smelt it."

There. Balance has been restored to the Force...)

Let me say it again, since I do actually believe it - I'm exactly at the level my Father wants me to be at, right here, right now.

And that's enough.