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, June 28, 2011

Big Ball O' Confusion

Along this path of being reborn, I'm finally seeing the pattern. I take a few steps, God holds my hand until my legs grow steady on the new ground, He smiles at His little toddler son, points to a new place on the path and we start again.

At this point, just starting to see this pattern, I say to myself, "duh." Yeah, I should have recognized this a while ago, since it's pretty much the pattern of life, of growth and of change. Like I never heard the phrase "two steps forward, one step back" before. A phrase I have heard a time or two before comes to mind here: "Not the sharpest knife in the drawer."

I could add a few more - "not the brightest color in the box"; "three fries short of a Happy Meal"; "dumber than a box of rocks" (or a bag of hammers, according to my friend Donnie); and one that I believe I myself was the first to add on to - "not only doesn't have both oars in the water, but lives 5 miles away from the lake."

If I wasn't the first one to add that, don't tell me. I've got enough to sort through today. Thanks.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah - the pattern, or as it's becoming known around here (at least for the next 5 minutes or so), Cal's DUH moment or three.

Here's where the pattern differs a little bit from the usual... I am a toddler with the mind and life experiences of a 52 year old. That's one HECK of a big baby... So the acceptance of one lesson at a time, one new thing to learn, one thing to get down before taking the next wobbling step? It's a little hard when your adult mind not only sees the baby steps, but the next 15 or so that have to follow this one in order to make any sort of progress.

The child mind takes delight in the one little step. (granted, those little steps are often mixed in with hyperactivity and come at the speed of light, but there is delight, on some level, for however brief a moment it is...) One thing done, one thing learned, one lesson that will have to be repeated to make it stick, but one more step on the path. And sometimes, if you're very fortunate, you get a cookie.

The adult mind tends to have the progress meter engaged at all times - Where have I come from, and where am I going? How am I getting there, and does this next step move me toward or away from that goal? And at the end, you don't get a cookie - just more butt kicking.

And the child mind, in a rare show of unity with the adult mind, cries out, "Why can't I have a cookie? Oh, the injustice of it all!"

Sorry - that just slipped out.

So, are you seein' the conflict here? 'lemmie 'splain...

To understand this, realize what a total, devastating, wonderful, amazing, horrifying, beautiful, overwhelming ride this past year has been for my body and mind. I've been saying all along that I think this journey has been 95% mental, and I'm sticking with that number.

(truth be told, to change that number now would only confuse me. I don't get along well with numbers)

So you have 52 years of life experience buried in a body that bears very little resemblance to what it was a year and a half ago, and a mind that sometimes doesn't recognize myself in the mirror. Some confusion is allowed here, I should think.

The biggest result of this seems to be that I get overwhelmed with multiple choices. And by multiple choices, I of course mean, "more than one."

If you see my beloved Vicki today, give her an extra hug. She needs it.

She'll ask me, "what would you like to do today - this or this?" Two choices. One, two. And in response, she gets Bambi in the headlights. *uh....*

So, say that I actually man up and make a choice? A couple minutes later, I'll still be making the decision that I already made, doubting the outcome AND throwing in a few other possibilities that weren't mentioned before, just in case those sound more appealing to Vicki, who doesn't really care one way or the other, and just wants me to MAKE UP MY MIND!

But she does that last with sweetness and patience, just to be clear.

(and yes, I know the use of the phrase "man up" previously could imply a) bad self image; b) lack of confidence in my masculine person; c) impatience with my own lack of steely-eyed will and determination; or d) acknowledgement of my permanent GirlyMan status. See what I mean by confusion?)

This, by the way, is why I do so much better with externally-applied structure, instead of internally-applied structure. Knowing that I have to show up at a certain place at a certain time because I am expected to be there, with consequences if I am not, makes me actually move along. If I'm the one cracking the whip, I'll tell myself where to put the whip and go do some knitting. I'm a lousy manager.

Now, back to our original program, already in progress...

I need to remember what my journey is these days - one step, a little new ground underfoot. Hold my Father's hand until my legs get steady on this different surface. Repeat the lesson a few hundred times until I can do it on my own. Repeat ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. World without end, amen.

The current lesson, for those who are interested: Take variables out of the equation. Make a plan the night before, get up the next day, do the morning routine (those things that must happen first thing upon starting my day), then get the plan going and executed. That night, sit down, look at the plan for today, move over stuff that didn't happen, make tomorrow's plan... Repeat and serve. Cold. With a little umbrella.

When I write it out like that, it makes such perfect sense. Simple, nice, easy. (sort of, depending on what the plan for that day is...) But my wobbly legs aren't quite steady on this piece of ground. My head isn't in sync with these uncertain steps. I've got a few barks on my shins, some rough patches on my knees where I've hit them hard, and although I keep asking, Vicki doesn't buy me the cool bandages with pretty things on them, so I all I get are the plain fleshie colored thingies.

Alright, that last bit was just a little humor. If I really wanted the cool bandages, Vicki would probably let me buy them. She's kind like that. And if not, our doctor certainly would. In fact, she's given me a Barney bandage before. She's also kind like that.

My Father is teaching me that all I need for today is what He will give me today. My adult mind and experiences have to get set aside on the shelf. Not gotten rid of - the wisdom gained and the lessons learned have and will continue to serve me well. To paraphrase and shamelessly rip off a thought from Cars 2, "the dents remind me of things I don't want to forget." My adult mind brings the patience and perspective that my child mind needs, lest the wide-eyed toddler turn into the defiant demon-child.

I've got to go through this - I simply have no choice. The more I try to speed up the process or work around it, the further behind I get. The process has to move at God's pace, since He's the one doing the rebuilding. He is the contractor, the architect, the owner of the building, and the keeper and sustainer of it all.

Father, when confusion would blind my eyes and shackle my mind, remind me of what You've told me all along... "my chains are gone, I've been set free." Grant patience for the process, help my wobbly legs to find their place, give me a little more solid footing each day and teach me how to navigate in my new life. Help me to eliminate the variables, make the plan, execute the plan, but also to recognize that the plan is Yours, not mine. Keep me in step with You, as we walk the path together.

Oh, and give Vicki some extra hugs today. As I said, she really needs 'em. Thanks.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Serious Sadness

My nephew sold his trike.

Now, my nephew is a man of good discernment. He is learning wisdom. He has a wise Proverbs 31 wife, and has learned the true blessings of listening to her. He's used the trike for the last year as his commuting vehicle, but discovered that it didn't work as they had hoped. So to make room for a second car, the trike had to go. If they felt it necessary to sell his trike, then it was indeed necessary. They take counsel together and move together.

So why did it make me so sad?

I think I was saddened because I thought about what losing my trike would do to me. My trike is a replacement behavior for food addiction. Riding is good for my mental state, as well as good for my body - but the mental benefits have been the biggest factor. My morning trike rides are where I listen to the Daily Audio Bible, I open up to things God would say, and I learn to listen intently and intentionally. Things that I hear during that time come back during the day to be reenforced and illuminated.

So what if that was gone? What if it was necessary to lose the trike? I have trouble imagining how I would deal with that. Which brings up a whole issue to think through...

How much do I trust God?

Yup - it's the Abraham and Isaac lesson. Are there things that I hold so tightly, that if God needed to take them away for me to grow, I'd be clinging to them, my feet dragging on the floor and screaming like a toddler who's way, WAY overdue for a nap?

Is my sanity wrapped up in my three-wheeled chariot, or is it resting in the One who gave me the chariot?

When I was laid off from His Kids Radio, after ALMOST 20 years (Yes, that does still frustrate me - I was SO close to 20 years of service. Stupid, I know, but I'm being honest here.), I went quietly insane for a few months. Apparently my sanity was indeed wrapped up in my job, or at least in my "stable" life. My reason to get up in the morning, stumble through the day, and justify my existence.

I had no idea what a weak foundation I had built everything on. One swipe of God's horrible mercy, one swing of the wrecking ball, and nothing was left standing. Which is exactly where He needed to put me to begin the process that brings me here today, from 486 to 223, from destructive behavior onto the path of wholeness, from self-loathing to being filled with such mercy and grace that it leaves me speechless.

So why the sadness?

He continues to shine the light on the corners, on the shadows. It was all blasted away, it's all being rebuilt, and He is making all things new, but I still clench and hold and grab and scream and cry...

And don't trust.

As He has taught me, it's time to raise some stones...

He brought me from death to life, spiritually through His dear Son, my Lord Jesus.

He brought me from death to life, physically through His boundless grace and love.

With a surgeon's skill, He brings me from death to life, remaking my body and rewriting both my history and my future.

With a Creator's skill, He brings me from death to life, renewing my mind, helping me to rewire and rethink my new path, wherever He leads.

He gives it all, He took it all away, He restores it all, so why do I need to hold on to any of it?

And the big one...

He is my Father. He knows exactly what I need for each day. He knows what my trike means to me, so if He finds it necessary to take it away, He will fill that void with something else. He already knows what is needed, before I'm even aware of a change coming.

In the end, there is no void. There's only God, and it all comes from Him.

Father, give me what I need for today. Thank You for the gifts You give - help me to remember that they come from You, and though they are in my hands for a brief time, they remain Yours. You bring in what I need, You take away what I don't. Keep my eyes on today - what I need for this day, not what I need for tomorrow or forever. All I need forever is You.


Friday, June 17, 2011

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. 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.


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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

There was a time, not so very long ago, that I was known for flowered shirts.

Lots of flowered shirts.

It became something of a fixture at church - the big guy in the flowered shirt, playing the bass.

I also was known for my rings - big honkin' silver ones that I made my own self. At least one on each hand, sometimes two or even three.

This was all in the season of life where I was over 400 pounds. Closer to 480 before January 2009. Since then, as most folks know, things have changed. A lot. My most recent weight was 230, but that was a trip to Mackinac Island and some 25 mile trike rides ago, so it might have changed again. I'm going to stop by the office soon to get an "official" number, just so we know how things are going. Goodwill is my favorite designer label (with Eddie Bauer being a close second, when I can get to a factory outlet), and wearing Under Armour makes me laugh every time I put it on.

(makes my wife and dog weep, but that's another story...)

The flowered shirts are hanging in the basement. We made one attempt to sell them, but no takers. I'd like to get a placemat sized potholder loom, and turn them into placemats - I think that'd be a cool reminder of where I came from.

Most of the big honkin' rings have been cut apart, their stones saved and the silver sent off to be refined. They gave up their existence to help pay for my new trike, Big Blue, and I'm grateful.

So the question that came to mind this morning, while taking Vicki to work and me to my North Office (spelled B-I-G-G-B-Y) is, "where have all the flowers gone?"


Why do I feel no desire to go find / buy / obtain replacements for my flowered shirt wardrobe? I've looked at a couple at GW, but had no real desire to try them on or purchase them. I don't find myself missing the big splashy patterns, nor longing after the eye-bleeding colors.

I don't "need" them. That's honestly what I think about them now.

As for the rings, I could go down to the bench and make some replacements in my new ring size, but I don't feel any desire to do so.

I don't "need" them.

I don't color my hair anymore. Friends remember my red tones, that actually were very close to what my hair looked like when I was a boy. I even have a box of color at home, but have no desire to use it. No "need."

Besides, my hair has its own ideas these days. Let me say it in public - no, it's not a perm. It decided to go Chia Pet all on its own.

As always, my writing is where I trot stuff out to take a look at it in the physical world, and sort through the baggage. So, what did I "need" this stuff for, and why don't I "need" it now? You would think a 480 pound man wouldn't want to wear a big ol' flowered shirt. Kind of like hanging a sign around my neck saying "HEY! LOOK AT THE FAT GUY!" The ring bling? The red hair? Same deal.

Theory #1: My mom told me (drilled into me, truth be told) that "fat people can't wear bright colors. You can only wear dark colors, so that people won't see how heavy you are." Yeah. That really works with my personality, right? I'm so shy and withdrawn that just blending into the background is what I'm all about. I used to wear the most colorful, obnoxious shoes I could find, just because that was one area where she couldn't tell me not to wear bright colors.

So, perhaps the adult still dealing with SBS (Spoiled Brat Syndrome) sees the flowered shirts, rings and hair as his rebellious hour come 'round at last. And there is some truth to that.

Theory #2: I wear such things to convince the world that I'm perfectly fine with my size. I'm not ashamed, I'm alright. I'm still a child of God, gifted by Him in so many ways, and I can serve Him even at my huge size.

This too has some truth in it. Actually, this is the one I lean toward, probably because I'm in denial about the whole SBS thing.

But underneath these was a layer of horrible self-image, depression and self-loathing that fueled the fire. Trying to find something, anything to hang on to, to be proud of, to prove that I'm alright. Looking for someplace to hold on to, a place where I could feel alright about me.

A place not to hurt.

It's the stereotypical Jolly Fat Man, laughing and smiling on the outside, deeply cut and bleeding on the inside.My bandages were made of red hair, silver rings and flowered shirts. I wrapped my musical gifts around me like armor, the one thing I could be proud of. A little, anyway.


Was I worth any less in the sight of God at this time? No.

Did Vicki love me any less in my huge days? No - she never once resented having to take care of me all those long years.

Did my friends revile me because of my weight? No.

But I did. I couldn't believe God's love because I couldn't accept that anyone could love something like me. I was terrified that Vicki would come to her senses and realize how unfair it was to be shackled to a horror like me. If I stopped playing, being useful to others, then I'd lose the one reason I had left for people to "like" me.


God intervened, at the exact right time. In His horrible mercy, He swung the wrecking ball, taking my job. There went one of my only reasons for getting up in the morning. My joy in worship - gone. One of my only reasons for going to church. For a few months, I went quietly insane, with no hope.

And still He waited, jackhammer in hand. The demolition was not done yet.

If you've read my story, you know what happened next. The foundation was swept clean when my old life was cut away on March 30th, 2010. My chains were shattered, and I was set free. Grace poured out in such abundance that it truly left me speechless.

And along the way, He said "see yourself as I have always seen you, my son. See yourself as redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. You are gifted, you are Mine, you are worth it, and you will point others to Me."


Am I worth more in God's eyes at 230 pounds than I was at 480? No.

Does Vicki love me more at 230 pounds than she did at 480? No.

Do my friends accept me more at this size than before? No.

The only thing that changed is how I see me. I am redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. I am gifted, I am His, I am worth it, and I live to point others to Him.

I don't need to wear flowered shirts, big silver rings, or have red hair. God wiped the slate clean, reset my odometer to zero, and re-wrote my history. The only thing I need is Him.


Got any flowered shirts? Huge rings? And issues underneath, holding them up? Dear one, YOU are redeemed, dearly loved, a precious treasure. You are gifted, you can belong to Him, and you are worth the price Jesus paid for you.

And God loves you. Right now. Where you are at, whatever baggage you carry, with things wrapped over your eyes, blinding you and muting the pain.

You don't need that stuff anymore. You just need Him. Mercy, grace, love - all waiting to be unleashed when we say yes to our Father.

Give us what we need today, Lord, for today. Let us rest in the truth that You have already placed the steps ahead in our path. We only need to walk today's way, and leave tomorrow to You. Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.

Island Lessons

During our all-too-short week in Newberry, we took a day trip to Mackinac Island.


We hadn't been on the island since our tenth anniversary (I think - might have been longer), and since we're coming up on number twenty-nine, we're overdue. Last time, we took a carriage tour, wandered and shopped a bit, but that was about all I could manage at that weight and condition.

Not so this time, my friends.

This time, I went as a Stone Cold Trike Rider - Death from Beside (and Slightly Below...), to use our adapted motto from Avatar. And, to our delight, we discovered after emailing the folks at the island ferry that recumbent trikes are not only allowed, they cost the same as any bike to take over.

Well, hot dang.

We also discovered that by purchasing our tickets online, we not only saved a few bucks, but the tickets are good for one round trip ride, any date the ferry sails. So, buy the tickets before we leave, pick the best day for weather while we're up north, and off to the island we go.

And we did.

There are some interesting things one can learn seeing Mackinac Island from thirteen inches off the ground. Allow me to lay a few of them on you:

1) Horse exhaust is really, really big.

1a) Especially when seated thirteen inches off the ground...

2) When seated on a tadpole trike, a horse's knee is just about level with your head. His sphincter is above your head. You really don't want to verify this - take my word for it.

3) If you're the kind of person that doesn't like to be noticed, doesn't want to stand out from the crowd, or doesn't want to spend time answering questions like "where did you get that COOL bike?", then you may not have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, a Stone Cold Trike Rider - Death from Beside (and Slightly Below...).

Excuse me... a few Marines want to have a word with me outside after that last bit.

Seriously, the things we overheard were all variations on "what is that thing?" Lots of "COOL!" thrown in for good measure, and not a few "where can I rent one of those?" Sadly, you can't. No trike rentals on the island. Maybe someday, although I'd probably still take my own.

4) The highway that circles Mackinac Island is in fact a state highway: M-185. It's 8 miles long, and is the only state highway in the country that is car-free. It is magnificent, and I'd move there in a heartbeat just to have it become my morning commute.

5) Seagulls are pretty big and bold on the island. I wouldn't be surprised that there are a lot of seagull muggings that we never hear of - it's all hushed up by the folks at the tourist office. Be warned - if you have what the seagulls want, just hand it over. Trust me.

6) Being able to not only look at souvenir t-shirts and sweatshirts and hoodies, but finding an abundance in your size and being able to actually think about buying the aforementioned garments is a joy that most people don't understand.

6a) Finding a couple of t-shirts on CLEARANCE is a joy that we all can relate to.

7) Once you get out of "downtown," the island becomes a lot less "touristy" and much more beautiful.

7a) I grew up near the Lake Huron shoreline. This was like being home again.

8) Vicki hasn't said this right out loud, but I think traveling with me has become so much a) easier; b) simpler; c) funner than it ever was before. We go, we ride, we walk, without her having to be on the lookout for someplace I can sit down. She doesn't have to walk through stores by herself, while I sit and wheeze on a bench outside. She can take the time to shoot a few hundred pictures without being concerned that my legs will give out shortly.

She can enjoy things WITH me, instead of having to take care OF me. That rocks!

9) In either time we've been to the Island, we haven't been to the Grand Hotel. I admire and appreciate it - I just don't feel like paying to see it.

9a) We do love the movie "Somewhere In Time," but not enough to go during the Somewhere In Time festival thingie they have on the island.

9b) "RIIIIICCCHHHHHAAARRRRRDDD!!!" is my favorite quote from the movie. I have issues.

10) Letting your kids get out their excess energy by taking off around the island? Great and groovy. Letting them do so under the impression that M-185 is their personal extreme bike stunt track? Not so much.

10a) I always wear my helmet, but not because of how I ride...

10b) I also wear my helmet because when my hair grew out, it decided to turn curly. I look like a Chia Pet. Helmet head is much better than fluffy head.

11) The horse always wins. ALWAYS. He has weapons you can't imagine and don't want to experience. "You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with" HORSE.

11a) Neither do you "spit into the wind" or "tug on Superman's cape," just to be clear.

12) The Mackinac Bridge is one of my favorite sights. I never ever get tired of looking at it.

12a) If someone from an institution of higher learning in the U.P. is looking for a database developer, and the drive from there to St. Ignace wouldn't be too far for someone else to get some summer gigs or jobs on the island, boy do I have a deal for you...

13) I hope that I never become so jaded that I lose the wonder of how easy it is to move around these days. I sometimes laugh out loud at the ease I find in just doing simple things, and I don't want to ever take that for granted. It was never a question if I could make it all the way around the island, just if we were going to do it once or twice.

14) Horses have a lot of "output." They are regular and carefree creatures, and leave evidence of that where'er they roam.

14a) I don't ever EVER want to be a farrier. I've seen where those horseshoes have been.

15) It is possible to visit the Island and not once set foot into a fudge shop. Those in the know wait until they get back to St. Ignace, where the lines aren't so long.

15a) There are fudge shops in Mackinaw City also, just for the record.

16) Smoked fish is delicious.

(Yes, this is a pretty random list. Why do you ask?)

16a) The store at the Cut River Bridge on US-2 has amazing fish.

17) My mother-in-law noted that you have to be pretty "obsessed" to travel with trikes, having seen the stuff we bring along to be able to ride. I guess I am obsessed. I can live with that.

18) Did you know there's a B.C. Pizza in St. Ignace? And it's right next to the parking lot where one can park for the ferry? And that a thin crust pizza after a day of riding around an island is a beautiful thing?

18a) I don't believe there's a B.C. Pizza in Mackinaw City. Makes it worth paying the bridge toll, eh?

18b) There is one in Lake City, so you could always grab it on the way home. If you can wait that long, that is.

19) I get just as queasy sitting in the main cabin of the ferry as I do sitting on the open top deck, huddling in the wind as my wife shoots pictures. Motion uneasiness is no respecter of person or position.

20) We aren't going to wait another ten or fifteen years to go back to the island. Or even five. In fact, I wonder what the plans are for this weekend...

The best lesson? That God has brought me to such a wonderful new place, and I need to spend my days reminding myself and others how amazing His grace is. No snitty days, no pity parties, no getting irritated at traffic. When God has put so much grace in your life, you need to be gracious.

Thanks Lord for our time away. Thanks for the island lessons. Thanks for the strength and joy to move around that amazing place. Thanks for Vicki, and giving me the chance to share life with her.

And thanks for keeping me from losing an axle in a big ol' pile of...

horse exhaust.

Amen. And amen.

(If you're a Facebook peep, you'll find a few pictures from our Island trip in my photos. If you're a FB peep, but aren't my friend, hit me with a request. If you're not into the Facebook, I'll try and put something photogenic together and post it on the blog. Sometime. Maybe.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Screams Of The Many

"The screams of the many outweigh the screams of the few... or the one." (with all apologies to Mr. Spock and a great moment from Star Trek 2 - the Wrath of Mr. Rourke and Rich Corinthian Leather...)

(And if you get all of those references, you get bonus points AND a cookie.)

Let me update my personal timeline, so that this will have some context...

The temporary job is now history. For almost a month, I was running the board for WaY FM's morning show, arriving at 5am or so, and leaving at 10am, M-F. And I liked it - a lot. It was sad to see it end quickly, but as I said from the beginning, you can't be possessive about something that was never yours in the first place. And it never was. It taught me some interesting things about myself, gave me the amazing experience of riding the trike up Leonard Street at 4:30am, and earned me the nickname Skunk Boye at CU Radio.

Fortunately, I think the nickname died much faster than the odor from little skunky did.

My last day was May 20th, and after the morning shift, I went home, we loaded up the trikes, the dog, the luggage and the eldest niecelet, and headed to God's front porch, da U.P. for a week.

Saturday the 21st, I turned 52. Tons of birthday wishes from friends near and far via Facebook, and most of the birthday broohah was lost in the festivities surrounding middle niecelet's graduation.

The day we rode the trikes around Mackinac Island is worthy of its own entry, and so it shall have one...

The week away came at the exact right time, to break the routine and give me some time to be away and get over the fact that the gig ended. That little change helped ease me over any leftover sadness and let me move along.

Sort of. Which brings us to the quote at the beginning.

I do really well with externally applied structure. When there are deadlines and requirements, and I don't have to decide or enforce them. Be told when to show up, what to do, and when to leave. No decisions, nothing to consider - just get going, do my thing, and leave.

But when I'm the one applying the structure? Not so much.

For normal (or more normal than me) humans, it's a matter of making a list, deciding what happens when, executing the list, and day done. Make goals, plan how to accomplish goals, execute plan, cross off goals, smile and go to bed. Repeat. I can do that, in small amounts, for very short periods, sometimes, maybe. But usually, it looks more like this:

1) Get all inspired and motivated to get things accomplished, and decide that tomorrow is the day that I get moving on ______, _______, and, of course, _________.

2) Get out notebook/electronic device/3x5 cards/whatever other widget I've found that will be THE thing to finally help me to set and accomplish goals/lists/things.

3) Enthusiastically write down/type in/draw in crayon everything I've needed to get done in the last 24 years, including those afghans that I never knitted for family, totally cleaning our house to the point where we can actually find things like, oh, the living room for example, and, of course, do the dishes. Every day. Always. World without end, Amen.

4) Go to bed with a sense of anticipation, knowing that the next day will bring a new era of productivity and bliss.

And that's where it all goes splat. Because the next morning, when I turn to whatever widget I've decided will change my life, I see the list and totally freeze. Everything on the list screams "ME! ME! Pick me first! I'm the MOST important! MEEEEE!!!" They all scream at the same time, each shouting for my undivided attention, each one important and (in my fuddled mind) deserving of my immediate time and work. They all seem to be equal, they all appear to be the one that needs to be done first, they all scream, and I have NO idea which one to get started with.

So I don't. Do. Anything. All the goals, all the ideas, the plans get lost as I assume a fetal position somewhere in the corner and cover my ears. At least it's a lot easier to assume a fetal position at my current weight. When I was 480, it hurt. A lot.

I understand the steps to getting things done - goals, plans, actions. I've looked at GTD, ZTD (Zen To Done), The 7 Habits Of Highly Marketable Systems (not to be snarky - it works for TONS of people, and I wish I was one of them), and other ways to move from a life of slothful stagnant existence to full glorious productivity. I know the basics. The disconnect comes in the execution...

Making goals? I have no shame in cheating on my own goals. I'll tell myself that they're more like guidelines and not rules. (which was one of my favorite lines from the Pirates movies)

Plans? I can make plans all day, and then feel no need to actually do any of them.

Actions? I'll look at a list of steps, and have no idea which one to do first.

One problem is that I suffer from SBS - Spoiled Brat Syndrome. I never actually grew up and learned to impose structure upon myself. The older I get, the more I realized what a little brat I must have been growing up. There are many layers to this realization, many factors that balance things out a bit, but the fact remains that I have a lot of brat baggage still chained around my ankles.

Next problem - I excel at PIOATLM - Pulling It Off At The Last Minute. Give me a month to prepare to do a program at some event, and I'll be putting it together at 10pm the night before. I'll pull it off, and you'll never know that all of my preparation was a panic session 12 hours ago.

Then cap it all off with what I've been talking about - how a list of things to do will all scream so loudly at me that I have no idea which one to start with, and you begin to see why my house looks like a dump... I mean, landfill. Why I have things that I promised to do for friends that have been uncompleted for YEARS. And why regret is a chain that I still carry around, after all the grace God has shown me over the last year.

OK - so in a nice world, this is the point where I would look at a fresh view of a verse in the Bible, engage a new truth and apply it to my specific situation. The issue would be resolved, hymns would be sung, and glory would shine all around.

Nope. Not this time. Life is sometimes messy and bewildering and it often disappoints. God never does, though. But we are left with questions and frustrations, without finding a nice neat answer that would make a great pithy saying for the changeable letter sign in front of the church. So it is.

I don't know how to sort out the screams of the many, to take the list and make sense of it, to see which step should be next.

I don't know how to take the strength of externally applied structure and make it work with internally applied structure.

I don't know how to set goals, make plans, decide actions, and execute them.

I don't know how to juggle. Even when there's only one ball.

So this ends not with an answer, but a plea... not a resolution, but a prayer.

Father, You are calm out of confusion. Master, You are order out of chaos. Keeper, You set captives free. Sustainer, You balance all things.

I look at the raging storm and I see destruction - You see the necessary forces to bring about change. I look at the things to be done and I see no way through confusion - You see the path to clarity. I look at myself and see only regret and failure - You see your child, weak, hurting and needing Your guidance.

Father, silence the screams of the many. Give me a new vision of a new day - one thing at a time, in the path You lay ahead of me.

Give me this day what I need for this day - the path for this day. Not the whole roadmap, but today's page. Sightblinder would keep me chained and overwhelmed with the tyranny of everything - set me free, Father. Help me to take the next step, only one, each where You have already placed it.

"Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead Thou me on.
Guide Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."

William P. Rowlands

The Spinning Pinwheel of Death

The spinning pinwheel of death, or the flipping hourglass of death. The blue screen of death. The little square Macintosh face frowning. And honestly, I don't remember what it was on the first computer I ever encountered - a Radio Shack TRS-80 complete with programs accessed on cassette tape.

And then, either by choice or not, the words "system shutting down." Rebooting, restoring, restarting - whatever nice term we put on it, it still brings that feeling of wanting to grab something heavy and show our little electronic pal some REAL rebooting. With a size 12 boot.

That level of frustration even hits the pros sometimes... my wife has been known to argue - loudly - with a given piece of technology when it dumps in her Froot Loops. Granted, she does it from a higher plain of knowledge, so she can curse at the thing in binary, but still - she gets frustrated too. Pinwheels are no respecters of persons or professions.

Then we get a new computer, a new operating system, a new mobile device. Joy! Rapture! Maybe this one will keep going and not leave me weeping in technology purgatory.

Or maybe it won't.


Unless it's an Apple, of course.

(Yes, that was both sarcasm and gentle humor wrapped up in one little phrase. Thanks for noticing.)

"Is there a point to this, other than once again igniting the Apple / Microsoft feud where the only winners are the Linux people, smiling smugly?"

Yes there is. Thanks for getting me back on track.

I have a new system. Let's call it DS-2010. Installed March 30th, 2010, it's a sleek new operating system and keeps getting smaller all the time. Right now, it's lost around 180 pounds of excess code, and everything is running just dandy.

And yet, the spinning pinwheel of death shows up from time to time. I've noticed it lately as I've been working the oh-my-heavens-it's-way-honkin'-early shift. I get started around 5am, get done around 10am, and if I'm not careful, the pinwheel appears and I get the message:

System shutting down.

Now, a brief pause between dawn patrol and the rest of my day is alright - some time to regroup, get in a little protein, and saddle up for the rest of the day. Sometimes it's a literal saddle - hitting the trike for a trail ride, but whatever the case, I do have things to get on with.

But if I let my guard down, lose momentum, relax too much, ooh - pretty spinning pinwheel! And I'm done, either snoozing, watching something I've seen a few dozen times on Netflix, or staring off into space, lamenting that I really should get up and do something. Once the pinwheel starts to spin, the system is headed for shutdown and I'm a chair jockey for the rest of the day.

Normal folks can take a brief pause without having it take out the rest of the day. I've never, EVER been accused of being normal.

What does this mean for my walk of faith? How often does God call me, direct me, guide me, only to see me staring at a spinning pinwheel, shutting down, oblivious to everything around me? Deaf and blind to His call, while telling myself to just "relax."

I guess you're never too old to learn the balance between moving and relaxing, doing and being, productivity and reflection. Pausing and listening to the Spirit, and then moving in harmony with the Father's will.