The Whistler's Dream

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

Random Fluffy Foto!

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

His Word, My Sword

Spending time with the Daily Audio Bible is an essential part of my day. Actually, it takes place as early in my day as possible, since I've found that the later it comes, the easier it is to skip it, and the less I get out of it, as it settles in my head and my subconscious chews away on it through the day.

(not that it's all about what I get out of the Word - it's much more complex than that - but you get the idea...)

So today, the reading from the OT was in Isaiah, which has been rich and amazing to be working through. Specifically, Isaiah 55:10-11:

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

The NT reading was Ephesians chapter 6, very familiar territory. And yet, something that probably everybody else has noticed, but not me - Ephesians 6:17:

"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Ok, so as I bounce out the door, first thing would be how often do I run out half-naked?

(apologies to those of you who now feel the overwhelming need to wash your eyes out with bleach...)

(Note - DON'T do that. Ever. No bleach. Ixnay on the leachbay. Just an expression - let's move along.)

(And yes, I did specifically choose the word 'bounce' back there. Hope you enjoyed it. *shudder*)

How much of the armor, what God says I need to survive the day, do I leave behind?

But that's not the biggie - the one that caught my ear, so to speak... When I (in my totally uninformed, non-theologian, Sunday School attending but not comprehending, basic pew pusher way) take these two passages together, here's what occurs to me:

Take the sword, which is the Word of God, part of your equipment for the day, and take it with you. And know this - My word always accomplishes what I send it out to do.


God gives me His word, to take up as my sword, and then tells me that His word always accomplishes what He sends it out to do. God trusts a dufus like me to take His sword and use it, even though I go out there swinging it around like a kid with a tree branch slaying imaginary dragons in epic battles only He can see. And by the way, "wherever you use that sword, it always accomplishes what I send it out to do."

It doesn't say that it only accomplishes it in the hands of a competent professional. No 9th level masters of the Word Sword only, please. The word goes where He sends it, and it accomplishes what He sends it to do. Through me, in spite of my juvenile flailings, my misunderstanding of how to wield it, and sometimes not knowing which end is the handle and which end is the blade, He sends the word out, and it does what He sends it to do.

Ooh boy.

I got some study and training to do. If you were told that you had to carry around, say, Anduril, Flame Of The West, forged from the shards of Narsil, the Blade that was Broken, able to command an army of the dead that can't be defeated, is a longer sword than I've ever seen, and makes me wonder how Aragorn whipped it out in the Return Of The King without lopping off Elrond's nose, you'd take the time to learn how to carry the thing without maiming somebody, wouldn't you? (not to mention the potential for stabbing yourself in the foot, or other significant soft tissue...)

And yet, I wander off into the day, carrying this both wonderful and terrible weapon, able to cut to the heart of things, to illumine the darkest corners, to lay bare the deepest darkness, to restore hearts and lives...

And I treat it like a wooden sword from Never-Never land. Lost boy indeed.

We memorize our favorite verses, post them on bulletin boards, mouse pads, screen savers, and bumper stickers, whip them out at appropriate (and not appropriate) times, sometimes with the delicate touch of a surgeon, sometimes with the blunt force of a cave troll, but all too often I do so without knowledge and wisdom.

As swordmasters go, I'm a fine sewer worker.

(Not to malign sewer workers - I've seen Dirty Jobs. You have my abiding respect and thanks.)

And yet, He uses His word. Even in the hands of a dufus like me. He sends His word through us, and it always accomplishes what He sends it out to do. That fills me with both awe and shame.

Father, keep me from going out half-dressed. Remind me to take ALL my equipment - the electronics that we all seem to have attached to us, the little bits and bobs that we take along for our needs, but also the most important equipment that you provide for my survival. So that at the end of the day, I'll still be standing. There will be attacks, assaults, temptations, distractions, and paths I should never go down today. Without all You have provided, I'm a sitting duck. Remind me to grab my gear, and go in Your strength.

And guide me to learn about my sword. Teach me Your ways, help me to wield Your word in a way that is worthy of my Father, and keep me from using it to harm or destroy the innocent. Impress on me both the wonder and the terror of how I carry Your word - make me see the weight of responsibility to be a warrior who knows how to use his sword.

And thank You that even when I swing it badly, Your word accomplishes what You send it to do. Thanks for my small part in Your purpose. Give me the things I need today for this day, and lead me as I follow You, sometimes with stumbling steps, sometimes falling, and sometimes making my Daddy grin as I finally "get it." Thanks, Father - for everything.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Harvest Home

Nothing profound today, my friends... just some thoughts rolling around as we turn the corner and head into the fall. And the winter. And the buttload of snow we northerners will shortly be shoveling...

I will admit - I am becoming a polyseasonal kind of person. Oh - I used to be faithful to one season alone... perhaps two at the most, flirting at the edges, but mainly true to my one and only season...


Yeah, winter. My favorite season. The cold, the starkness, the joy of snuggling under several blankets and their comforting weight banishing the frost. And the only season I didn’t sweat like a pig just walking across the room.

Second was fall - especially late fall when the temperatures really start to crash and things get comfy. Pumpkin spiced donuts and cider. Soup and chili. Sweaters and jackets. And a lot less sweating.

But now? My love of a particular season is no longer bound to the amount of sweat or discomfort I associate with it. Spring is wondrous, especially when the snow and water are finally off the bike trails and one can get out after a long frozen season for a nice ride in the new spring sun. Summer is amazing with a couple hundred pounds less insulation - the whole sweating thing isn’t an issue any more. Winter is nice, with its quiet solitude, although winter with NO snow on the bike trails would be heavenly. Guess I got to move south for that.

And the fall. Ah, the fall.

The leaves, the changes. No sadness - just completion of the growing seasons, before a well-deserved rest in the snow. Lots to finish before then, though - things to store, things to can or freeze and preserve, things to close up, things to prepare before winter locks the doors up tight. Pictures to be taken in the golden autumn light, to keep and look at and hold through the cold dark months.

So, it’s no surprise that one of my favorite hymns is usually considered a “fall” hymn. Which is a real shame, because in re-reading the words, I discover that it’s a great song for many times, especially a funeral...

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified, in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Text: Henry Alford, 1810-1871; Music: George J. Elvey, 1816-1893

I’ve decided that this song is going to be sung at my funeral / memorial / thingie. When I’m part of that final harvest home, taken into God’s house to dwell forever, I want those I leave behind to long for the golden days of autumn, when all is gathered in, when all is made ready for the long days ahead, in His presence forever. But there, no darkness and cold of winter - forever light, forever golden, forever new, forever green and growing, forever warm and beautiful...

Forever and ever.

Even so, Lord, quickly come - bring Thy final harvest home!

As I said, friends, nothing profound today. Just enjoying watching the seasons roll by, from the seat of a trike.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning and Unlearning

It is, fortunately, possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It's not easy, it takes patience and grace, it takes understanding of the dog's personality and nature, and it takes a lot of love, but it is possible.

Ezri is 12 now, and in the past couple of months she's beginning to show her "senior status." She still wants to play catch, she still carries her toys around, and her tail still does the helicopter thing when we come home. But the game of catch doesn't last quite as long, the many, many toys are down to a few favorite choices, and after the initial greeting, she'll lay down.

And it's now possible to sneak up on her. If she doesn't feel a vibration in the floor, she doesn't usually hear you.

Seems like you just get to know them, and then they are getting ready to leave. *sigh* So we are learning to work with her where she is at, to help her along as she slows down. To navigate the changes with her and help her.

So it is with me.

While my hearing is slightly diminished, it's still alright. My legs are a little stiff, but nowhere near what they were 18 months ago. And though the clock has been rolled back in many things physically, let's face it - I'm 52. No amount of weight lost changes that.

But my head is still a puppy brain. I look, I see, I explore, I play, I discover, I test the boundaries, I learn the limits - sometimes. But I do so with the weight and momentum of 52 years of experience. Old dog, new tricks.

I learn... I move differently, have different needs, have new essentials I must maintain, take up a lot less space. I am becoming more comfortable with who I am, and how God has gifted me.

I smile. A lot.

But, in equal measure, I also need to unlearn... I don't have to sit down after standing for two minutes. I don't have to do the dishes sitting down or cook sitting down or do most tasks sitting down. People aren't staring at me saying "look at the fat guy." Sitting in my chair in the living room doesn't mean I'm staying there for the next 8 hours. I don't need to worry about the stairs. I can sit in a booth...

I'm not worth more at this weight, nor was I worthless at 480 pounds. God loves His kiddo, whatever size I am.

The unlearning comes hard. 52 years of experience and momentum, being obese all my life. 29 years of having to be cared for by my beloved, with the expectation of not living many more. Years of being a spectator instead of a participant.

Learning to relate to people, unlearning the need to be introverted for protection. Learning that acceptance was there all along, unlearning the things I "thought" people were saying when I walked into the room. Learning how to use my new abilities and mental state to change my home, to control the clutter, to wrangle the finances, to live minimally and happily. Unlearning the habits of home as a "safe place," where I go to numb out, veg, and shut down for hours and hours. Unlearning the desire to sit in my chair and remain immobile for entire days.

These habits and behaviors sometimes kick in before I even realize it. I lose a day, right before my eyes, and never see why. I could blame depression, I could claim lingering illness, I could come up with all manner of creative excuses...

Or I can unlearn that behavior, and learn a new one - taking responsibility (not guilt) for where I am at, honestly assessing (not drowning in hopelessness) where I need to go, and moving forward (not becoming overwhelmed and hiding in a corner) in God's grace and His strength.

It's not easy, it takes patience and grace, it takes understanding of the dog's (my) personality and nature, and it takes a lot of love, but it is possible. Old dog, new tricks.

The ones who are cheering me on through this - my beloved, my family & my friends - ARE patient, they extend grace, they know me, and they have a lot of love.

And the One who knows me best, is infinitely patient, has limitless grace, understands my personality and nature better than I understand it myself, and loves me more than I can imagine. He walks this path ahead of me, with me, and behind me, supporting me when I stumble. He promises that just as He began this work, He will continue it.

So, I look at Him with bright eyes and twitching ears, tail doing the helicopter spinning thing, eager to play, to go where He leads, and to learn whatever He wants to teach me.

Father, help me to have the same trust in you that Ezri has in me. Thanks for using her to show me just a tiny glimpse of how You continue to teach me, at any age. Thanks for patience, grace, love and acceptance. Help me to learn, to unlearn, and to walk with my eyes on You. Give me this day what I need for this day, and help me trust You for all the days to come.


Randomness and Happenings

It's been a long, l-o-n-g time since I did a general update as to how things are. So if you're one of the folks who look forward to some deep spiritual insight whene'er ye read these pages, well...

a) you're on the wrong page - the deepest we get around here is not quite deep enough to wet our toes.

b) this might not be your day. Perhaps tomorrow.

For the others who haven't run away, muttering as they shake the dust off their feet, we have these little gems, in absolutely no particular order, thus insuring lack of coherence and comprehension. This is how I serve mankind.

1) Homeboy played the organ on August 7th

Some of you didn't even know that I played the organ. My feet had forgotten, too. Seriously (yeah, right), it was amazing to play again - something I hadn't done seriously in at least two or three years.

And I realized that I've NEVER played at my present size. I started playing the organ in college, when I was already over 300 pounds. So sitting pretty on the bench at 224 was a new experience. My right foot, normally anchored on the swell pedal (volume pedal, for those who don't use nomenclature...) to help me keep my balance and to keep my enormous tummy from playing its own unique stylings on the lower manual (keyboard, see above), decided that my left foot was having so much fun down there on the pedals that it wanted in on the action. My hiney (rear end, south pole), greatly reduced in its scope and girth, said that it could handle the balance issues, and since my tummy (spare tire, gut, thing that used to proceed me where'er I would go) has made its way from enormous to saggy, it was happy to cooperate. So "Righty" kept jumping down to the pedals, saying, "Lemme help! I can help! PLEASE???" And "Lefty" replied, "do you mind? All these years of me carrying the load, and NOW you want to help?"





"I'll take my shoe off..."

"Step right in."

Yes, my various limbs do have conversations like this. Thanks for noticing.

Anyway, organ was played and Cal smiled. So did Vicki. And various others did too.

2) Miles and miles of miles and miles...
(quoting one of my favorite authors there - David Eddings)

Trike riding has been ongoing, usually a minimum of 10 miles in a ride - more usually 15 or so. In fact, we did 19 hair-raising miles yesterday [end of June], including one hill that actually forced my feet backwards. Ouchies. But we made it, and would do that route again. Truly amazing. I'm still faster than Vicki on three wheels, and can usually hold my own when she's on two wheels. But I always climb hills faster than her. (insert fist pump here) I'm living out our motto, adapted from "Avatar"...

I am a stone-cold trike rider, death from beside (and slightly below).

I really want to get part or all of that painted (or decaled) onto my next Nutcase helmet. The one with the blue argyle I've been oggling over.

(and, because sometimes months pass between first draft and these puppies seeing the light of day, we did 24 miles on Monday, September 12th. Belmont to Cedar Springs and back on the White Pine Trail. Sweet!)

3) Every day in the Word

For the first time in my life, I've been in the Word (via the Daily Audio Bible) every day since June 1st. Now, there have been a couple of times when I had to catch up from a busy weekend, but God allows some grace and doesn't grade us on such things... I think. But the routine of meeting Him in this place every day is becoming more and more rooted in my life, and I love it.

(And, after writing that in June, I had a total fallout in August and got out of the habit. Grrr... So I'm catching up slowly - wanted to finish the book of Job - then I might jump forward to the current podcast, rather than trying to catch up and falling further behind. This isn't a race, and there's no award for neatness. Just a reward for faithfulness.)

4) It was 29 years ago today... ok, over a week ago today... Ok, last month

On the same day that I blew the dust out of the pipes at church, Vicki and I celebrated our 29th anniversary. What a difference from last year. What a huge gaping chasm of difference from two years ago. What an immeasurable outpouring of grace from God's hand, both in my present health and in my spouse. She is my heart, my life, and my best friend. God is good, and I know that because He brought Vicki into my life.

5) Standing on the promises

On July 24th, it was great to be a part of leading worship with my dear friend John Mulder out in Ferrysburg, something that we have the honor of doing once a year or so. It's become one of the highlights of my summer.

This year, there was no seat or stool in sight.

I stood throughout the music, without falling over or having my knees give out on me. The good news is that it's AMAZING to be able to stand and play. The bad news is that it enables me to move and groove as I play, which totally proves, as Weird Al would say, that "I'm whiter than sour cream." Homie can't dance. But, as the folks who put up with me every week at First Cov will testify to, lack of movement ability doesn't stop me. Really. *sigh*

And, as a result of some amazing happenings in August, I was part of a recording session a week or so ago (9/10), playing some bass on a bunch of good ol' Gospel songs, and I stood for most of the day. My tootsies were tuckered by the end of it all, but we made it!

6) The dog as a senior citizen

Ezri is beginning to show her age. At times, that is. When she's in "play mode," she still has her puppy heart. But she doesn't play quite as long, she lays down a little faster these days, and when she gets up, there's a little more stiffness in her booty. Once in a while, one of the back legs gets pulled up and she does the tripod thing until the leg relaxes and she can walk again.

And it's now possible to sneak up on her, which seems to indicate that her hearing isn't quite as sharp as it was. Unless it's the rattle of food, of course - she can still hear that from three miles off.

7) ResponsibleCal...

I'm approaching my 18 month anniversary, and starting ever so slowly to get a tiny grasp on how my world works now. To the point where I'm starting to ask questions like, "What's next?"

Now, before you become concerned, rest assured that my journey is not becoming routine or mundane - it receives my attention each and every day. If it doesn't, I can become very, very sick, so maintaining my new life is still job #1.

But I'm now starting to look at the rest of life, my walk with my Lord and with Vicki, the gifts He has given and how I should be using them, and asking the question, "Where shall we walk today?"

There'll be a whole other discourse on this process but, for now, know that a new character - ResponsibleCal - has stepped on stage. He joins SpoiledBratCal, StoneColdTrikeRiderCal, FreeSpiritCal, BusyButProvidingNoIncomeCal, ArtsyAndVERYFartsyCal, AstonishedHusbandOfVickiCal (more commonly known as "Mr. Vicki"), and others who shall be revealed in the future. We'll see how his ascent to power shakes out.


So here I am, on September 14th, reading words originally written at the end of June, and it continues to amaze me just how much God can bring through our lives in just a month. How much things can change. How much the mundane of life can blind us, hog-tie us, deafen us with its screaming, and smother us with useless things.

And so, Lord of All, I ask for what You already provide freely - grace. Grace for this day, as You provide what I need for this day. Thankfulness for all Your hand provides. Passion to share Your light with everyone, so they too can see Your hand at work in their lives, every day. Guidance on the road ahead, lest I try and make my own path. Patience to wait for what You provide, one day at a time. And wisdom, so I can hear and follow Your voice, and shut out all the distractions of the mundane.

Thanks for reminding me that even though these past 18 months have been a wild roller coaster, you've been right there in the front seat with me. You've even encouraged me to put my arms in the air on some of the big hills. :-D

Thank you, Father. So, where are we headed today?...