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!
Standing in the sunshine... preparing to dig an escape tunnel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TBT: The Forgetful Mirror

"Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like."

James 1:23-24 - The Message

There are a few podcasts that are part of my routine - I check them out regularly, load 'em to my iPod ('cause it's a little tough taking an iPad on my trike), and listen to them either during the day or at night before bed.

One in particular usually starts my day, and sometimes ends it: the Daily Audio Bible with Brian Hardin. I usually listen as soon in the morning as my schedule allows - on my morning trike ride, while knitting in the living room, or at a coffee shop or bookstore preparing to write.

At first, I thought "well, this is just for those who want to take the 'easy' way - being spoon-fed scripture instead of reading it for themselves. Not really studying - not 'real' devotions, just an electronic fix that doesn't really change a life."

And I was wrong. At least for me. For others, your mileage may vary.

What this has done is help me establish a morning routine - a regular path that I follow. Beginning my day focusing on God and His word, and that starts to penetrate the rest of the day. A particular verse, or a section of the story coming back to mind, giving me time to reflect and apply.

Which brings us to Solomon and James. (wouldn't that be a great name for a folk singing duo?)

We're in First Kings, watching the reign pass from David to Solomon. We approach the apex of glory for Israel - the building of the Temple and the rule of the wisest king ever... and then we watch it all fall downhill from there. From David, with a whole heart for God, to Solomon, half-hearted.

And it makes me wonder, which one am I?

I (like so many other kids raised in Sunday School) do a bit of sneering at the Hebrew children - watching the Red Sea part, then hang out with the gold cow. God provides bread, and they whine. God delivers, they turn to idols. "What, are they idiots?" I hear myself ask.

Solomon - given wisdom from God, along with long life and riches. And after an amazing start, down he goes. Just like the rest of his people's history.

Or mine.

For I'm the guy who has received such abundant grace from God's hand that it staggers the mind. I've seen my entire life and history re-written in just over a year. Chains have been shattered, my story made new, and God's goodness shown so hugely that I have no words to describe it.

And 5 minutes after hearing His word, I get irritated with the person who just cut me off on the highway. I get peeved when the piece of bread I just buttered falls on the floor. (buttered side down, of course) I sit in front of the TV or the computer and allow my brain to turn to mush. I wander through my world and wonder why I feel so alone. Through conscious or unconscious choice, I turn away.

Half-hearted.

I look in the mirror, walk away and forget what I look like. Probably there's a little dot in my Bible next to James 1:23 and an arrow that says, "you are here." I cry for God's word to illumine my path, then I tie a blindfold over my eyes. I plead for His voice to sing over me, and then I plug my ears. (no matter that they're Bose earbuds - they're still earplugs at times)

I'm Solomon, without the wisdom or the riches. Only one wife, but she is a hottie, so we've got that in common.

What listening to the Word each day is doing is keeping the mirror in front of me. In fact, when I'm being a boogerhead, you'll sometimes hear me mutter, "mirror" or "Solomon." The mental health professionals call that self-talk. I call it giving myself a private butt whooping. Or semi-public - I have no shame. Usually. Sometimes.

Father, give me this day what I need for this day. Keep the mirror in front of me Lord - don't let me turn away and forget who I am in You. Remind me when I turn away, catch me when I close my eyes or plug my ears, and lead me in Your way. What I need today, for today. Each step, each hour, each minute. Thanks for the gift of Your word - help me stay grounded in it, and close to You.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Becoming

This is me, doing my own "becoming..."
To my friend the Poetess, with whom a three-hour conversation seems way too short...

Mid-fifties seems to be an interesting age. Or so it seems to me, having been perched in the absolute center of mid-fifties for a few months now.

There's the obvious stuff: Only 10 years to Social Security (which, more and more, seems to mean "the all you can eat cat food bar..."), you now have to be on the lookout for the places that start offering the senior discount for us youngsters on the senior set, and you really do start to wonder if *insert name of whichever drug is being mentioned on whichever commercial* is right for you.

My doctor, the Zena (Warrior Princess) of the medical world, albeit a whole heck of a lot taller, would say, "No. No, it's not right for you. Stop watching those commercials, and DO NOT go to their website for more information. Now get up on that exam table before I bring the hurt."

I love my doc.

Anyway, the ski lift of life has dropped you at the top of the hill, slammed the door behind you, and is preparing to deliver a swift kick, sending you flying down the slope with only one ski, no poles, and all the grace and poise of a young Jerry Lewis...

Without the talent, comic timing, or mad skilz.

But it's not all bad...

A good friend and I sat down for a short three-hour conversation. We graduated in '77, from the well-loved Oscoda High School, where the mighty Owls pelt the opposition with the fury of their droppings.

Let's see YOUR school mascot bring that kind of punishment. HAH!

And we were talking about how many folks from school have connected with us on Facebook, and what a strange but cool thing that is at this stage of our lives. To our surprise, (Mine, anyway... the Poetess is a much kinder soul than I...) we seem to desire those connections, even welcome them, where perhaps we wouldn't have years earlier.

And those connections aren't just about shared experiences, but go beyond - where people we know are now, where life has taken them, and the kind of things they have learned along the way.

We're all becoming.

"Huh?"

I, in typical Calbert style, mentioned that maybe the reason we all seem more open to connecting with each other, is that we've had a lot of the dumb knocked off of us over the years, a lot of the pretense, and a whole heap of the attitude, leaving us a little wiser, more aware of grace received, and more willing to extend that grace and love to others.

We're all becoming.

"Ah... Um... Wait - what?"

We're more able to connect with others, because we've become more open in these years. Some of us have been through deep and horrid waters, bringing their lessons of wisdom and endurance, and some of us are right in the middle of those currents. Some of us, one very recently, have fallen from our number, and are missed. And some of us have learned that the regrets we've been carrying all these years are useless weight, so we finally get rid of them and find freedom in the process, freeing us to share that light with others.

We are becoming.

And really, isn't that just a small glimpse of the life of faith and trust Jesus calls us to, when He says, "Follow me?"

(Especially the bit about having the dumb knocked off us... I speak for myself here...)

I was thinking (and the Poetess mentioned this too) that it's sad this place in our lives didn't arrive sooner - the openness, the freedom, the grace and caring. But, we both admit, the view from the age of "double nickels" is not really possible back in your thirties or forties. Maybe it's a fifties thing, or perhaps it's different for each one of us. Some of us arrive at this place a little sooner, some a little later, and sadly, some might miss it altogether.

You have to drop a lot of stuff to have your hands free and open.

I do think in our walk of faith, though, that it can arrive a lot sooner. The Word of God can do a lot to "knock the dumb off," and fill that empty space with wisdom, love, mercy, and grace. If we open the Bible, really get into it and pay attention, that is.

Me? I'm a slow learner. It's all pretty much arriving right here in the exact middle of my fifties.

I'm becoming.

And by God's grace, so are you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Lies Beneath



So, I sent my resume off...

To St. Louis.

Missouri, not Michigan.

Wha?

I know - I don't understand either. And I'm the one that dun did the deed, so I'm really in it deep now.

In all fairness, the job description is such a fit for me that you could put my picture next to it and it'd be a match.

On the other hand, that'd drastically reduce the amount of interest in the position, so no, probably shouldn't do that.

But it has made me wonder why I would find a job so far away so appealing. Especially since if by some random alignment of something or other, I was offered the job, and then accepted it, in all likelyhood, I'd be going solo down there, leaving my Beloved and BekaJo here in GR. So yeah, you'd think, that's a deal breaker right there.

Not to mention the expense of a 2nd household. Granted, we'd be going to two incomes, but we'd be running two homes. Well, one home and one little tiny apartment as cheap as I can possibly find one. Enough room for a bed, hopefully a table, and a buttload of whistles.

But not the tuba. At least, not at first.

So yeah - should be a deal breaker. No questions.

And yet, it's not. At least, not in my twisted little brain.

So after some pondering, I think I've finally hit on why I'd even consider such a move. Besides the obvious, that is - that I'd enjoy working for the company, be working with a product I couldn't be more excited about, and some full-time moola would help the whole "dig ourselves out of a deep financial hole" thing.

(Not to mention, hopefully, a staff discount on instrument purchases... *swoon*)

Besides that.

I think the appeal is, I'd escape the chaos. I'd have a clean slate, someplace different, leaving behind the clutter and the reminders of my sometimes-dark existence both before my new life, and at times in these first 4 years. I'd move to a different space, not surrounded by all the clutter that has choked my world, not reminded of jobs lost, sorrows felt, and hard changes endured.

Blank slate.

Now, that could be a good thing. It could be a "reset," a chance to get rid of some of the bad habits that have crept into my new life, and to rebuild the movement I need for going on. And sweeping away every distraction could create an environment where the writing would flourish. (At least, as much as it can flourish whilst holding down a full-time gig.)

-But-

It could be a bad thing. It could create an environment where I grow away from my beloved, creating a different life that doesn't include her.

Overreacting? Probably. I've never been in a situation where my daily path might lie nowhere near hers. I know people do it all the time, and they do as well as is possible in that situation...

But I also know me.

And sometimes I don't trust me.

It all might be academic - I have no idea if the folks in St. Louis would even be interested in interviewing me, I have no idea what the result would be, and I don't know what direction we'd go if an offer was made.

But it's been helpful to think through it, and identify what might be holding me back right here, right now. To see where my weak spots are in this life, here in GR, and to see the need for a reset.

And to see right up front the possibility that if I'm not careful, not mindful, I could be ditching my best friend.

And Beka.

Like I said, I know people do this thing all the time. And somehow life continues. It takes strength, determination, and awareness, but it can be done.

Skype, IM, FB, and all the other wonders of this present age - they can help to shrink the miles and keep the connections strong. My beloved has vacation time, and this position also includes vacation, so there are those times.

Not impossible, just unknown territory. The unknown has been known to give me the heebee jeebees.

hee hee hee

So this position would be interesting, a huge learning curve, something that I would love, and something that I would be a little nervous about. All jumbled together in one big ol' bag of fluffy.

As long as it's not an "escape," an attempt to get away from (what I might see as) my cluttered, depressing, pointless, and stalled life, then that's ok.

-But-

If it IS an escape, something to "change my life" that would ultimately damage my marriage and shatter everything that the Lord has built in me so far, then no. If a reset is needed, it'll have to be done right here, right now, one pile of clutter at a time, one day of striving to sort out how I become unstuck at a time, and one step of learning self-discipline at a time.

Hard, slow, seemingly futile work. But things that I've been sadly lacking most of my life.

As I said, this all might be academic. And actually, it already is. If the Lord wants it to happen, it will. And if He doesn't, it won't. We're listening, thinking, and praying, and rest in the fact that He loves His kids.

So how do you feel about major life shifts? Is it an adventure or something that is ridiculous to endure?

It's supposed to be an adventure. And like all adventures, it has twists and turns that nobody sees coming...

Except for the Storyteller - He knows exactly how it'll come out. And I trust Him, since I have no clue.

Hey - maybe I can add that to my coat of arms... "Cal The Clueless," written in latin and Old English font. Stylish, yet brutally honest.

Something to think about. I've got a lot of those lately...

Whee.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Random Conversations

"Don't look up... For the love of doggie bacon strips, don't look up."

It's amazing the things you hear (and see) in a coffee shop. The full range of interaction and conversation, from loving and happy to moody and snarky, from impatience dripping with teenage angst to hackles raised over political and religious debate.

It's fun, and weird. As long as one is sitting on the sidelines and isn't drawn into the danger zone, that is...

(Go ahead - tell me that you didn't at least hear a snippet of Kenny Loggins in your head with the phrase, "Danger Zone..." I don't believe you. 

Or I do believe you, and am jealous of your self-control and focus. You be the judge.

*humming "Danger Zone" as he turns back to the keyboard* )

For example, this morning in a northern town on vacation, perhaps the type of town immortalized by Dream Academy (now you're humming "Life In a Northern Town"), I got to be a silent observer to the following interactions:

1) A couple of elder statesmen discussing local events. These same gentlemen might accuse the womenfolk of being gossips, but dudes - you really give them a run for their money.

2) A teen and her mom / aunt / other female personage. Their interaction made me wonder: Does the teen du jour always treat the female person with this level of, well, disrespect, or do they just have a really quirky relationship and all is cool?

Or a rather weird mix of both? One will never know.

And finally...

3) The match of the century, with the gregarious, jovial senior dude attempting some engaging (yet trivial and fluffy) conversation with the middle aged dude reading the paper.

This one was a doozy.

I don't know what reading materials were on his table, but middle aged dude evidently was reading the political section. Senior dude, who already was displaying a tendency to engage any and all in mindless chit chat, decided to make a comment about some political hot topic. Perhaps it was in reference to an article in the paper, perhaps in reference to something else on the table, or perhaps his tendency to chit chat was just set on "drivel-tastic!"

Whatev.

Middle dude, by his concise, polite, but still forceful response, answered the comment AND made it pretty clear to all but the conversationally tone deaf that he really wasn't in the mood for chit chat, gregariousness, or slightly snarky but innocent commentary.

Senior dude, it would appear, was among the conversationally tone deaf.

Now, I admit that I did not look in that direction, especially since most everyone knew that the train was coming, and senior dude was standing on the tracks. So, I don't know what prompted senior dude to launch this next salvo...

Perhaps it was frustration in being politely and respectfully dismissed.

Perhaps it was the big dog syndrome, the need to mark the territory that the little dog just piddled on with a stream of flood proportions.

Or, as I might have mentioned, perhaps there was more reading material on middle dude's table than just the paper, like a Bible for example, and senior dude decided to lay down the hurt.

In any case, he rolled out a founding fathers quote, something about how the biggest wall should be built between religion and state, and sat back in smug satisfaction, bladder empty and tail wagging.

(I will, of course, NOT quote the quote. My skill with mangling quotes is known throughout the world, and I don't need to display it once again... You're welcome.)

Senior homie would now be playing the role of "one-legged man in a bottom kicking contest." And the odds were NOT "ever in his favor."

Let the whooping begin.

Middle homie, again in polite and respectful tone, proceeded to unload. Articulate, sure of faith and conviction, and impassioned, he fired off his position and thoughts in a direct and forceful manner, with a connected stream of communication that would have made the Apostle Paul (the undisputed master of the run-on sentence!) grin from ear to ear.

Middle dude brought it, including the horse he rode in on, the saddle, related tack and horsey thingies, AND the kitchen sink, which has nothing to do with the horse, but yet seemed to fit somehow. Weird.

And he had a cheerleader. Who I hadn't mentioned, until just now. Like, right now.

Let me introduce you to...

Grandpa dude.

He and grandson little dude were enjoying a donut trip together, when the big ol' can of whoop bottom was opened.

And grandpa dude was definitely taking sides.

So middle dude's presentation was punctuated with nods of agreement, verbal affirmations, and a hearty "Well said, sir" at its conclusion. It was kind of like being ringside at a Holy Ghost revival meeting where the preacher is bringing the word, and the congregation is responding in a very verbal manner.

"GLORY! Uh-HUH!"

Get ye down. (And then, get ye back up again.)

As I said, senior dude was the one-legged man at a bottom kicking contest.

Middle dude was wearing steel-toed footwear.

And grandpa dude was cheering him on.

The hurt, brung it was.

Middle dude wrapped up, grandpa dude grinned, and a hush fell over the room as middle dude picked up his stuff, said a polite "Good day, sir," and left.

Having witnessed such a fine display of hiney whoopery, grandpa and grandson also made their exit, grinning all the way.

And now, the weird part. 

Perhaps we should call it the *insert whichever party or persuasion that provides you the most humorous value* rebuttal, which always seems to inevitably follow whatever speech you just heard.

Senior dude is now alone over in the corner. And yes, I am so TOTALLY not looking in that direction, keeping my head down over my crochet and iPad, letting my face remain neutral.

And I hear muttering, soto voce, from the corner.

"Soto voce?"

Oh - you don't know that one? Hmm... I could direct you to Google, but I'd never get you to come back, so let me handle this:

Soto voce (SO-toe vo-CHAY) = "half voice." Not really a whisper, but definitely a softer voice... Sort of.

Google (or a Jedi) am I not. Village Idiot am I. Powerful in the fluffy have I become.

Anyway, back to the muttering...

We were deep into instant replay, where points were being refuted, arguments responded to, and victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. The replay and rebuttal took well over five minutes, whereas the salvo from middle dude was over in about two.

So instant replay isn't really "instant." Who knew?

I did hear two words clearly in the midst of the muttering... "Jesus freak."

So, I think that the big dog found his reserve tank, let fly, and reclaimed his territory in the name of gregariousness, joviality, chit chat, and freedom from religion and that other crapola. Perhaps he revived his deflated personhood and mentally crowned himself Da Man once again.

In any case, he then shuffled off, engaging the unsuspecting in more cheery, trivial stuff, muttering all the while.

It's amazing the things you hear in a coffee shop. You should try it sometime.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Looking Through Their Eyes



This is dedicated to friends who have taken the call to go into the world literally, either full-time or short-term, including such folks as our dear Hannah, the Z's, Baby Sister, Madman and his family, the Guatemala team from First Cov, the Barbers, Bubba and his bride, Mr. Z, Wally and the amazing folks from Compassion Int'l, and the whole host of others who have left home to see the world through God's economy.

Also to that great group of friends, the Living Witnesses, who traveled to Jamaica for 21 days of concerts, and having our eyes opened in ways that stay with us, 30-some years later.

Thank you.

"Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
Proverbs 29:18 (ASV)

We need you.

We need what you've seen and heard.

We need to be reminded that the Kingdom comes, not just to folks who look like us, who live near us, or who have the stuff we have, but to folks who don't look like us, who live far away from us, and haven't even heard of some of the stuff we "can't live without."

Some of them don't speak our language, or they speak our language in ways that we don't recognize or understand.

("Hey, mon - take it easy!" - a phrase we heard a lot in Jamaica. I also heard the phrase "Hey fat mon - how much you weigh? Four, five hundred pounds?" I was closer to three than four back then, thank you very much. But, to those folks, I was a sumo. Good times indeed.)

When you get back (or got back, whichever applies...), you'll be dazed. Then spilling over with sights, sounds, tales, and challenges. Perhaps some of us who haven't been where you've been, haven't seen what you've seen, might get a little impatient with you.

(Dare I use the word "snitty?" Is "snitty" an official word? Is there some dangerous potential for an epic typo in using the word "snitty?" Am I eternally thankful that the Lord chose a proofreading ninja to be my beloved spouse? Oh heavens and great gravy bones, yes...

And so are you. Trust me.)

Truthfully, you'll probably get a little impatient with us too. Having been through what you've been through, you'll come back to us and our "first world problems," and you'll want to yell at us and smack us upside the head, because you've seen reality, and returned to the plastic, pretend world that we think is "real," and you'll want to scream.

And that's alright. If you don't want to yell at us, you need to go back and spend more time in the "real" world, so that you come back ready to be all up in our grills about all the piddly poopy we hold so dear.

See, that produces a couple of good things, that kind of indignation at how "our" world is...

In YOU, it produces patience, as you learn how to communicate the urgency and passion of what you've seen, without the head slapping and yelling.

(Right, Baby Sister? Love ya, little one... *insert hand hug here*)

In US, (As in the group of people you return to, not the U.S.A. - though the country I live in could certainly use a big dose of your vision..) it slowly opens our eyes, helps us begin to see God's world through God's economy (Thank you Wally, for teaching me that phrase!), and gives us a gentle (or not-so-gentle) butt-kicking into what Kingdom life looks like, right here, right now.

And we need that vision. Just as much as you need the patience to share it with us.

If you think about it, it's a symbiotic relationship. Not in a gross, parasitic kind of way. Or even a "bird living on the rhino's back, getting rid of bugs and such" kind of way. Nobody's chowing down on anybody else's bugs here.

Unless that's how they roll where you went / are going / are preparing to go. *whew* Tenses are... well...

... tense.

(Did you hear about the fire at the circus? It was "IN TENTS!"

Get it? In TENTS?

Say it out loud...

There ya go. Now you're groaning. You're welcome. Dumb jokes are always a shout-out to Elder Niecelet and Neffypooh. Always.)

Anyway, back to the parasites...

"If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed."
Proverbs 29:18-19 (MSG)

When we don't see what you've seen, we stumble all over ourselves. We're tripping over furniture in the dark, stepping on Lego bricks, and muttering choice words, keeping them well below hearing threshold, lest they fall upon sleeping ears. We're fancy like that.

- BUT -

If we who were "left behind" (Note: NOT capitalized, lest the pileup of copyright lawyers be nigh unto deafening...) hear the stories of God at work all over the world, then slowly our eyes open, our hearts open as well, and the body of Christ becomes aware of just how far His hands and feet need to reach.

And every time you encourage us, challenge us, remind us and enlarge our vision, you do the same for yourselves. After all, if we don't raise the stones, if we don't tell the stories again and again of how God has moved, how He showed up in marvelous, real, tangible ways, we quickly forget.

"WHAT?" I hear you cry... "After all I've been through / am going through / am about to go through, how could I possibly forget how I saw Him at work / see Him at work / will see Him at work?"

*whew*

Well kids, it's been 4 years since God totally rewrote my whole story, changed me from the outside in, and reversed my history...

And I forget that on a daily basis.

The phrase he put in my heart right after surgery, "My chains are gone, I've been set free," becomes a dim part of my past, a memorable phrase in a song long-forgotten. Those promises, the ReBirth, becoming Tabula Rasa, all the stones that I HAVE raised... gone with the next flush of the biffy.

Only when I re-tell the stories, only when I dwell in the places He has led me, only when I remember that "the old is gone, the new has come," only then do I live in the "real" world, right here, right now.

Your mileage may vary. But, if I might put my reputation as Cal the Questionable Prophet on the line here, I don't think it will.

If we don't remember the stories and tell the stories, we fail to live the stories.

To those who remain, listen. Drink deep the vision of our loved ones who've seen things we can only imagine or see on social media. And see the world through God's economy.

To those who return, tell and live the stories. It's for your benefit, as much as it is for ours. We all need to tell, we all need to hear, we all need to live the truth of the Kingdom...

God at work. Right here, right now.

"All believers, come here and listen,
let me tell you what God did for me."
Psalms 66:16 (MSG)