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, July 26, 2011

What Have I Created?

It is a true statement that husbands and wives shape each other. Actively or covertly, the nature of living together with the same person for decades makes its imprint and changes us.

It's either the process of an artist, gently coaxing the vision in their head out of their selected medium (ok, there's nothing gentle about someone going to work on a pile of marble with a hammer and chisel, but you get the idea...), or the process of water running down a rock face, doing the slow work of changing the shape of the hard surface below, taking little bits of the original away in the constant flow.

One way or another, stuff changes.

Now, people who know me and my beloved have often thought that she was probably a normal, sane, practical person before she hooked up with me, and that somehow I warped her into the normal, sane, practical, and slightly crazy person that she is today. May I just point out that the roaring bonfire of craziness can be fanned from a very small spark. Let those who have ears hear what I am saying...

But yes, I have been molded and shaped by her gentle spirit, her servant's heart, and her love for God's creatures, great and small. It's been more of the water eroding the rock sort of thing, since I'm a mighty big boulder, made of the Adamantium of stone, hard and resistant. But it has happened, and continues to happen.

To my shame, the inverse is true as well. Ok - I'm not ashamed about the crazy part. She is my match in every way, and to be otherwise would make for a stressful existence. She shares my sense of humor, my joy, my curiosity, my eclectic musical taste, and my belief that God alone is worthy of my praise, my devotion, and my whole heart.

So why do I mention shame? Because of the things I've forced her to become.

She's had to become a caretaker, doing everything (and I do mean everything) for a husband who, at his heaviest, weighed 486 pounds.

She's lugged immensely heavy equipment to any number of gigs, gotten everything set up, waited patiently while I did my thing, packed everything up and loaded the car, drove me home, unloaded the heavy things and carried them to the basement, and tucked me into bed when I had no strength left after performing for an hour or two.

She's lived in a closed world, having the burden of all household things, physical and mental, on her back. The taxes, the bills, the dishes, the filthy floors and walls, the clutter everywhere.

She's endured all kinds of medical issues - huge sturdy recliners, adjustable beds, CPAP, tons of pillows and mattresses to make it possible for us to spend a night or two away from our nest, shower chairs, wheelchairs, hoping to not have another toilet seat break, leg braces, canes, walking staffs, compression stockings, trying to find some sort of shoes that will let me walk and will last more than six months.

She's gotten used to not being able to go someplace without having to plan the kind of logistics that would baffle engineers. Finding someplace for me to sit, wandering through exhibits alone while I sit and wheeze, doing all the grocery shopping while I sit in the car, carrying the dog food so that I'd have a friend to keep me company in my depression and loneliness.

Those are just some of the physical issues...

She has endured a mate who has been a spoiled brat, who never learned to grow because his weight gave him an easy excuse. A mate who was an emotional roller coaster, showing moments of love and tenderness, followed by hours of rage or weeping. Someone who had such a low self-esteem that his only worth came from her love, always needy, always wanting, always afraid of losing her.

So, she learned. She learned to bend to my wishes, since I'd be sulky and stupid when I didn't get my way. She learned to put up with the roller coaster, to duck when necessary, to stand quiet, and to ride the storm. She learned how to deal with being needed. All the time. Non-stop. She learned to put her hopes and dreams aside, to squash and silence them, and to surrender to the eroding force of the needy spouse.

You thought I was the unyielding boulder, huh? Indeed, I was in some ways, but more often I was the running water, constantly irritating, constantly tearing and wearing, chipping away and carrying off pieces of the original, leaving it worn and marked in my path.

Hence my shame.

And yet, she loves to hear me play. She loves it when I tell a story. She hugs me, gives me smoochies, laughs with me, and brings a light to my eyes when she smiles.

She never once saw me as an immensely obese person. She looked past the weight and saw ME. And loves what she found there. She's the only person to ever do that, totally and completely. She sees me like my Father sees me, and I see His love reflected in her lovely green eyes.

I promised the Lord a while back to be transparent in this journey - to put the good and the bad out there, for others to see. It's one of the reasons He poured this grace into my life. But this is hard to write, and harder still to know others might see and read. But on we go...

I'm not the person I was a year ago. That's not just an advertising blurb for the surgery - it's the truth. Through the surgery, the weight loss, the counseling, the health interventions (mental and physical), and through God's abundant grace, the guy sitting here typing away is not the guy who rolled into the operating room a year ago. And while some of the changes have come fast as a landslide, others are slower in revealing themselves...

I now need to change how I've molded my wife. Somehow, I need to repair the erosion, rebuild the damage, and restore the pieces I've washed away.

When I ask her what she'd like to do, I need to help her see that I really want to know her preference, and won't get sulky if she picks the one I don't want to do. If I have a preference, I'll express it, but I'd much rather know what she's interested in.

When I ask her what she thinks about something - a dream, a thought, an idea, I really want to know. And I won't go off on some "but mom, I want it NOW" tirade if she seems to like something I am interested in. My dreams aren't worth much without her in them.

She needs to know that I'm determined to dig us out of the hole my wants and desires have put us in, both financially and in launching all the clutter we are surrounded with as a result of those wants and desires.

She needs a safe place to flourish, so that there is time and space for her hopes and dreams - not just space for all of my needs.

Her needs have a place, and they should be met.

The weight needs to be lifted from her shoulders, so that much of it can be placed on mine. My shoulders are smaller than they were, and really bony, but are still strong.

She should be loved as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for her.

I'm ashamed that it took so long to get here. But in God's mercy and grace, I see that it couldn't have happened any earlier - it happened exactly at the time it should. Regret is a powerful tool of the enemy, but God's grace can shatter it.

One thing I know - I'm incapable of doing any of these things myself. It's impossible for me to undo the damage of 28 years. What I can do is walk in step with the One who CAN undo the damage and heal our hearts. All I can do is live as a new creature, follow Him with a whole heart, and love my beloved like He loves her. He doesn't ask me to undo the past, but walk in the present with Him as together we love and care for my sweetie.

Now that I can do.

Father, forgive my mistakes. Thank you for waking me up, healing my body, and clearing my mind. Help me to be worthy of my beloved's trust, not because I deserve it, but because I place my trust in You. I take Your hand, then take her hand as You lead us both. Restore what has been broken, keep regret from shattering our spirits, and lead us on this amazing path You've laid before us. Thank you for my beloved, and for the opportunity to show her Your love. Keep my eyes on You, so that I can love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.


Water Grave

Anybody remember Water Grave by the Imperials? That rockin', illegal song that ALL the kids at Grand Rapids Baptist College knew, loved, and jammed out to?

Yeah, I thought you might.

Of course now, it's Cornerstone University, the kids wear jeans to class, and Water Grave is an oldie that their parents listened to (or grandparents, actually).

*sigh* I'm old.

I'll admit that my favorite version of Water Grave came out some years back, from a truly unexpected source: Steve & Annie Chapman. It kicks out in a Charlie Daniels Devil Went Down to Georgia kind of way that I really love. Makes me forget all about Circle of Two (the Flat Oval song, for those who remember the complaints at WCSG...) or some of their other really decent songs that I was too immature to appreciate.

I was thinking of that song (Water Grave, that is - not some of the other ones...) on a particular weekend, as I always do, when we had a baptism service. Out comes our baptistry - the Holy Hot Tub, as our worship leader puts it. No, he's not kidding - it really is a portable hot tub, placed in the Family Life Center, heated (usually), and set for the service.

We hear the stories of lives changed by the risen Christ and we see new life made manifest as our brothers and sisters pass through the water reminding all of us of our own journeys to redemption. It never fails to move me down to my toes.

Not that anybody needs to know that, of course.

I was baptized when I was 9 years old, newly saved and just figuring out what that meant. I really don't remember the event, just the memory that it happened, where it happened, and that the robe they made me wear got really heavy when it was wet.

Needless to say, no toe moving memories there.

An idea, an image has been rolling around in my noodle, and I'm not sure if it is planted there for me to act on, or just a picture that our Father is having me keep in front of my eyes. Perhaps writing it down will be enough, instead of actually going through it. Just for the record, I'm totally fine with the whole "image in front of my eyes" thing. That's good with me. Just dandy, thanks.

I envision myself entering the Holy Hot Tub (most definitely heated on this particular day), either wearing or carrying one of my lovely 6XL flowered shirts, thinking about my new life. How God, in a very real, physical way, has taken me from death to life. How He rewrote my history and my future, and changed everything.

I'm also glad to note that Craig wouldn't have to call extra help in to the HHT to do the deed. Yes, extremely heavy folks think a lot about logistics.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I pass under the water...

And when I come up, the flowered shirt is gone. Left behind in the water grave. Everything that I was, passing away. Everything that I am becoming, passing through.

Here's the cool thing - our family at church has been walking along with us and watching the journey. They've been cheering me along, encouraging Vicki, and are totally geeked at seeing me vanish before their eyes, so to speak. They've been watching me pass through the water grave all along. Instead of taking a moment, washed in the water, it began March 30th, 2010 and continues now. The process is happening right before our eyes. My old life is falling away, my new life continues to make itself real.

So, really, I guess the image has already happened and is happening. It's come to pass. Steve and Annie are singing away, the band is kickin' it, and this old dog is waggin' his tail. Toe moving is optional, but mine definitely are.

"I'm goin' down to the river,
And I'm gonna be buried alive.
I want to show my Heavenly Father,
The man I used to be has finally died."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Horrible Mercy

She hates this. Ok - hate might be a little strong.

She barely tolerates this. That's better.

She's pinned down, while having a metal blade scraped over her back and legs. She has no reference to understand what is being done or why. There is no language that can explain to her what this is, why it has to happen, or how it will make things better. Her head is being held down at one end, and any attempt to get up or move is put down quickly. At the other end, the relentless digging and scraping of the blade.

Ezri hates the stripper blade. And shedding season.

Overdramatic? Maybe a little. But accurate from her point of view? Pretty much. She's on her side, I'm by her head trying to comfort her, but really my job is to keep her on her side. So I gently put down any attempt to get up or get away. Vicki is wielding the stripper - the metal blade that pulls away all the loose fur from the undercoat that is matted and all clumped up.

And Ezzie is not into it.

So why put her through all this? If it was just to make her "purty," we'd find another way. But she's one of those breeds that have a double coat - the "hard" coat on the top, and a downy coat underneath for insulation. Our husky, Kira, also had this. When the weather turns warm, they "blow their coat" - the downy layer comes loose, it clumps to the top, and our black dog turns grey. And way ugly.

The efficient way to get rid of it is using a stripper of some sort - to rake through the hard coat, grab the clumps and pull them out. The end result? Enough extra fur to make three or four dogs. And a throw pillow.

So, the point?

I've been listening to the Daily Audio Bible every morning - establishing for the first time in my life a routine of being in God's word every day. And we've been going through 1 & 2 Kings - long, long lists of names and deeds. And yet they've been teaching me a lot.

Near the end of 2 Kings, a phrase came up a number of times that caught me off guard - "they even sacrificed their own children, giving their sons and daughters to the fire." Another note in the list of ways the Kings did evil in God's sight, but it made me think...

What would bring a parent to the point where offering their beloved child as a sacrifice seemed to be a reasonable act? What desperation, what obligation, what influence is sufficient to make a parent take that step?

Now, while I let that thought roll around your noodle for a bit, allow me to execute a very sharp left turn into this...

The Bible talks about the process God uses to remake us into the image of Christ, with one of those pictures being the refiner's fire. Metal being placed in the furnace, the waste and impurities being burned away, the pure metal remaining. Having watched some episodes of "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe, I've seen metal in a furnace being heated to thousands of degrees. I've seen glass being melted and shaped into new forms.

And none of it looked like a lot of fun. Except where Mike holds something hot or gets his face shield melted. That's pretty funny, right there.

What would bring a parent to the point where putting their beloved child into the fire would seem a reasonable act?

God's horrible mercy.

When we're in the fire, when the wrecking ball has shattered everything we hold dear, when we seem to be so lost and alone, when everything we love or even recognize is swept away, all we seem to see is loss and pain. We see the agony of everything that has been torn away.

I know I did. When the wrecking ball swung in 2006, I went insane for a few months. The loss, the pain, the confusion - that was all I could see.

But what I've never once considered is what my Father went through. He threw his son into the fire. He swung the wrecking ball. He held me down on the floor while the stripper blade dug into my body, taking away the clumps, the matted dirt, the things I didn't need anymore.

We sometimes think of God as this impersonal all-knowing being, executing His will because He knows what is needed and He works all things together for good for those who love Him, as it says in Romans 8:28. What we don't think of, or at least I didn't, is God our FATHER. A Father who daily makes the choice to throw His children into the flames. Yeah, He knows it's needed - He wouldn't do this if it wasn't. And He knows what will result, the good that comes from this terrible act.

But He's still a daddy. He watches as His kids writhe and cry and scream and hurt and burn. Could any parent just stand back, arms crossed, wrapped in the knowledge that this is for the best so it's just got to go this way, and not hurt for their child? Could you or I just watch and not want to intervene, to take it away, or to take their place?

I turn into a puddle just having to hold Ezri down while we're stripping her coat. I can't even imagine what a parent goes through.

This Father considered it a reasonable act to offer His Son as a sacrifice for all of us. This Father watched His one and only beloved Son cry and suffer and scream and hurt and die that horrible death. He knew that it would result in life, for His beloved One and for the whole world, but His daddy's heart must have ached with the pain.

And this Father has to endure the suffering of His children over and over again, to allow it to happen, to cause it to be.

The horrible mercy.

Father, when the fire burns, allow me to see some of Your tears. When the wrecking ball leaves all wasted, allow me to see some of Your heart. When I am ruined and alone and screaming and confused, allow me to see that I am not alone - my Daddy weeps with me.

Help me to trust, just like Ezri trusts me when I hold her down. It doesn't make it easier, it doesn't make it hurt less, but it does help. I'm not suffering alone, I'm going through what is necessary, and my Father is standing near, hearing my cries and longing to make it all better at just the right time - not a moment before, but not a second longer than necessary.

Keep my eyes on the joy we'll both feel when the fire is past and I'm closer to what You have in mind for me. Thank you, Daddy.