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, October 25, 2011

Longing For Home

I've become aware of something lingering in the back of my addled brain. It's good that as I work through this process of learning and growing into my new life, that things get sorted out along the way, but it's irritating as heck to have something ambush me when I'm not expecting it. Thus it is with the following:

Somewhere in the back of my head, I'm longing to return "home." Not bad, you think... except that when I say "home," I mean my former life. Without the extra 200+ pounds, granted, but to my former life at WCSG / CU Radio. At my day job. With the steady income therein. Where I showed up at the set time, did the stuff that was laid out before me, with the externally applied expectations, out the door at the set time, lay it down, head home, and do it all again the next day. And the next. And so on. World without end, alleluia, amen.

When the Lord swept everything away in 2006, when I lost my mind for a few months and lost some things that I've never recovered, when He started the process that would result in where I am today, apparently some part of my head held on to the hope/desire/dream that someday God would relent and allow me to go home. To the life I had known for ALMOST 20 years. (Yup, still a little bitter that I was just a few months short of the 20 year mark.) That He would do what He needed to do, change what needed to be changed, make me into what He had in mind, then He'd be done and I could go home.

I've seen friends that were long away from CU Radio return, coming back into the family. I've seen friends allowed to move "sideways" into new places, instead of moving down the biffy, like me. (And, in a sense, I'm already there - I'm the overnight voice on WCSG, happily putting in my 8 or so hours over a two week period. Which is making that sweet Traverse City condo a stunning reality.)

(Yeah, right.)

And the voice inside says, "See? If you were worth something, they would have found a way to keep you, or to bring you back. Obviously, you were useless, so you were launched. Deal with it, oh thou who has no worth and makes no contribution to the welfare of your household."

(It does us all well to remember at this point that these ramblings are where I trot out the stuff going on in the ol' noodle, look at them in the physical world and sort the truth from the lies, that I might recognize them the next time they come around. Hang on - we'll work through this.)

There's a part of me that keeps hoping that, like Job, God will relent and restore what's been taken from me. That He will let me go home, to the familiar - where the expectations aren't self-generated, where I don't have to struggle to find a reason to get moving each day, where I actually make income and can hang some of my self-worth on dollar signs. To let me slap it into auto-pilot, and not have to wrestle with my identity and purpose.

And then, maybe I'll find peace and comfort, back where I belong.

Do I belong there? Really? Was Egypt so magnificent that I want to catch the first bus back? Was slavery so lovely that where I am now pales in comparison? Was it ever really that good?

DISCLAIMER - To my friends and colleagues at CU Radio / Cornerstone University: In no way are the statements above meant to reflect on the institution, the organizations therein, or any part of that reality. Y'all aren't Egyptian slave drivers, there are no pyramids out back, and no one (I know of) has been asked to make bricks without straw. In short, pardon my metaphor.

The answer, for me, is no. It wasn't that magnificent. It was alright, at times wonderful (especially hearing the stories of listeners drawing closer to God through what they heard on the airwaves), and at times it frustrated the sanctification out of me. At times I did well, at times I was excellent, and at times I wasn't worth the oxygen I was taking up. I was trying, I was challenging, and for all the good stuff I brought to the table, there was a ton of crap under my chair (not literally... just to be clear).

Regardless of what my inner demons would tell me, I really don't need to prove anything to anyone. By going back, I won't show everyone that I'm better, that I'm worth something now, that I am now worthy of being part of the "family." Going back to my familiar world isn't necessary to either close old wounds or show those people that I should never have been flushed.

And it probably would be the worst thing for me.

I would become numb to the new, buried in the rut of ALMOST 20 years of habit. (I have issues - I know that.) Doing my month or so of part-time stuff at WaY FM reminded me of how quickly my eyes can close to grace and fix on the mundane. How fast I can become blind to grace and ignorant of God's hand.

Going home would probably stop my growth, and learning my new life, right in its tracks. There would be no need to struggle and come to terms with who I am now, or who God is making me into. I would forget lessons learned, close my ears to lessons to be learned, and take my eyes off of the new path.

If going home was the best thing for me, my Father would lead me there. But He hasn't. And, He hasn't mentioned it to my beloved either. She, being wiser than me in so many ways, sees clearly that going back would mean going backward.

Could God relent? (He can, but that would mean that He was punishing me, and He isn't.) Could God have a path in mind that leads me back there? (He could, but it would be in His time, in His way, and would mean that He has prepared me to be there.) Will I go home?

No idea.

Ok - some idea... He could, He might, but at this point He isn't. He doesn't want easy for me, He doesn't want comfortable for me, and He doesn't want me to slap it into auto-pilot. He wants me mindful, watching, listening, waiting, trusting, looking, believing, and walking. I'm the one who adds the words struggling, striving, wrestling, searching, wandering...

I am already heading home. In Him, not in things or places or situations. I am His, and He doesn't want to share me with a job. He wants my whole heart, no distractions, no obstructions. He wants me to LIVE this new life, not to return to the place He brought me from. To feast on what He provides today, and not be longing for leeks & onions (or turnips, for that matter...).

He didn't take me away from home; He's bringing me home - to Him.

"Loved with everlasting love, Led by grace that love to know.
Gracious Spirit from above, Thou has taught me it is so.
Oh this full and perfect peace, Oh this transport all Divine.
In a love that cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.
In a love that cannot cease, I am His and He is mine." **

Welcome home, wandering pilgrim.

** "I Am His And He Is Mine" - words, George W. Robinson

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chip Away Everything...

Depending on which variation of the story you know, it kind of goes like this... a sculptor was asked how he created such a lifelike sculpture of a lion out of a block of marble, and he replied, "it's simple - you just take away everything that doesn't look like a lion."

(Don't bother correcting me - I know that there are variations on that story. Just roll with it, 'k? Thanks. :-D)

And, only one paragraph into it, it's already obvious where Cal is going with this one... being remade over 18 months, chipping away everything that doesn't look like me, yada yada yada, blap blap blap.

Sorry. Didn't realize I said that last bit out loud.

But no, that's not where this goes. Which, by the way, surprises me as much as it does you. What? You think I actually plan this stuff out before I start writing? No, as I tell my beloved frequently, you're giving me credit for more intelligence than I actually possess. (And yes, I did hear a few of you muttering, "no, as random as this poopy is, there's no WAY he actually plans it in advance." Thank you. You know me well.)

To chip everything away that doesn't look like a lion, you have to first have a good grasp on what a lion really looks like. Over the last 18 months, I've become Captain Clueless with regard to who and what I am. Yeah, there have been times when I didn't recognize my own face in the mirror, when I have no idea what I like or don't like, or when I have no clue as to where I'm going and why. Take my hair for example - I never imagined it would go Chia Pet all on its own. Still don't know if I like it or not.

Isn't it supposed to be Former Fat Man loses weight, angels sing glory, joy and love radiates all around, and everything is beautiful in the happy kingdom? Not in my zip code, sunshine.

Quick disclaimer: What has happened to me is amazing beyond words. The abundance of grace directly from God's hand staggers me and humbles me. For Him to be re-writing my story in such a huge way leaves me breathless.

I smile and laugh. A lot. And so does my beloved. A lot.

So in no way am I tearing down or taking away from this great gift that God has given us - far from it. But just as the Word tells us to work out our own salvation, this is not a plug and play sort of accessory. There's some work involved.

Actually, a lot of work involved.

Actually, a mind-numbing, back-breaking, hiney-kicking load of...

*ahem* Sorry. Got a little intense there. I'll back it down a few thousand degrees.

I am anxious to make my world reflect me now.

- To have our home work with my new life, not cluttered with garbage left over from when I sat in the living room 6-8 hours a day, not able or willing to move.

- To have my life balance match the balance my body has found with this new gift, so that I get things done, and can actually feel a small sense of accomplishment, instead of guilt that my wife has a "real job" while I mess around with piddly stuff that doesn't really matter.

- To have everything that I do, everything that I believe, everything that I care about reflect this new life, showing God's grace.

Anybody see the red flag yet? See the problem? No? I know I didn't, until just now...

I can't cut away everything that doesn't look like Cal, because I don't KNOW what Cal looks like! I get so frustrated, because everything is NEW, right? It's all amazing, right? So I can just jump in, throw stuff out, switch other stuff around, and bada boom, bada bing! New life, baby! And when I go to take the first step...

I stop. I freeze. I stall.

Oh yeah, I can see dozens and dozens of things that can and should be thrown/fixed/changed/dusted/banished, but when it's time to move, I don't.

I don't know what Cal looks like, so I don't know what pieces to take away to make it look like him. Sure, there are basics that apply regardless of what the end product is going to be. But I've been thinking that I just jump up, dive in, blast through it all, and there ya go. Perhaps not...

Just as this process has required (and continues to require) a slow, deliberate movement, making all of the new requirements into habits that stay with me, the process of making my world look like me will also require slow, deliberate movement, as I learn through these changes what I really look like. As we've said just about every step of the way, the process will take as long as it takes. It can't be rushed, I can't skip a step here and there, and it will be done when it's done. In the end, I'll recognize the face in the mirror, because my Father is making it the way He wants it to be.

What about you, friend? Are you in a season where you're waiting? When the process seems to be dragging on forever? Has your world been so shaken and turned and smashed that you have no clue which end is up?

Do you recognize your own face in the mirror?

Our Father, gracious, loving and faithful, remains. No amount of chaos, shifting or turmoil can ever take us from Him. And everything He promises in His word remains true - it endures. I'm particularly mindful of a certain promise that tells us He who began this work in you and me is faithful - He will complete it. You and I, we look for the express lane, we count the items in our cart to see if we can squeeze in and go faster, to get through it faster, to be done faster.

But the process will take as long as it takes. It will be done when it's done, and we can't skip a step in the process. He will be faithful to complete it - all of it, every step, regardless how long that takes. Because, when you get down to it, we have the time He has given us, so the processes and changes will take exactly the time He's already provided for them. Not a moment sooner, and never late.

So I'll continue to refine and chip away at my world, but give myself a break when I don't know what to do. Little by little, I'll learn what the next step is. I'll recognize what fits and what doesn't. I'll learn what Cal looks like, and take away the bits and pieces that don't belong. And I'll be reminded all over again of the Faithful One, who began the work and will complete the work and who has made me new in Jesus.

Now, where'd I put that chisel?...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Circus, Celebration, Check-Up

I try to keep a bit of a balance when I all-too-infrequently write here. A bit of whimsy (or a whole ton of it), a little weird humor, some insights (which come from wisdom not self-generated), and updates on my strange and wonderful journey this past 18 months.

But, this one tips the "happenings in our lives" boat a little hard. Sorry 'bout that, but the truth is there have been many, many "firsts" in the past few weeks, and for my future's sake, they need to be documented. Some are funny, some are surprising, some defy description. All need to be placed as stones, so that in the long cold winter ahead, I can look back and see where God has brought us, and remember where we are headed.

So, saddle up your hip waders, and let's dive in...

1) The Greatest Show On Earth
On Sept 18th, we went to the circus. It had been quite a few years since we made it, although it used to be a yearly tradition. Traditions go out the window when income goes out first. :-D

So, in no particular order, here's some of the things that happened for the first time:

a) Parking way in the back lot at the Van Andel arena, and walking in. No cane, no wheelchair, and no gasping for air after a dozen steps.

b) Going through a turnstile without having to go sideways, or worse, going around it.

c) Climbing the steps to the second floor. No elevator, or long line waiting therein.

d) Walking all the way around the 2nd floor, pausing to look at all the interesting souvenir booths and such.

e) Walking down to our seats, finding out where they were, but not sitting down immediately.

f) Going down on the floor for the All-Access Pre-Circus Show!

This is a big one - each year, Ringling allows folks to come an hour early, go down on the floor, and check out the circus up close. There are clowns performing, stilt walkers, costumes that you can try on, an elephant painting (and then the art gets given away) - it's a great sample of the circus from up close.

I've NEVER been able to go down and check it out. Ever. This year, oh yeah baby! We walked around, we took our time, we saw lots of stuff. I even walked over to where the band plays from, got to check out the bass player's rig and basses (just looked - no touching!), and even got a picture with a real Ringling clown!

I know - that would freak some of you out right down to the ground. Keep in mind that I used to perform as a clown, and a part of me still remembers dreaming of running away and clowning in the circus. *sigh*

g) Then we went back up to the 2nd floor, walked around, selected our mementos from the circus (including an amazing picture in front of a green screen that put us in the ring with elephants!), got some munchies, and carried it all back to our seats.

WE carried. Vicki and I. She didn't have to set me in my seat, find out what I wanted, go get it, making multiple trips, carry it all back, and then tuck me all in. We went, we carried, we came back. That's a huge first!

h) I fit in the seat. With room to spare. Wow.

None of this seems like a biggie to "normal" people, but to someone who was around 480 and pushing a monster wheelchair the last time I was in the Van Andel, it was beyond huge and amazing. Thanks, Lord, for such grace. Thanks, Vicki, for waiting so long for me to catch up to you.

2) An ArtPrize Celebration!

I LOVE it when my friend Marge calls / emails me ('cause, as all the world knows, Cal is phobic about talking on the phone, so those who "talk" to me are usually referring to text or email... It's apparently lodged deeper in me than any of the weight that's gone away so far). It usually means an opportunity to use my musical abilities to serve one of my favorite ministries, Dégagé. When Marge contacts me, if I'm even remotely available, the answer is an enthusiastic "YES!"

And this one was especially enthusiastic...

She asked me to play for an ArtPrize artist reception at Dégagé, and I was pumped indeed. So, on Sunday, Sept. 25th, we trundled all my bits and bobs downtown and I got to play at ArtPrize...

And boy howdy, was it FUN!

I haven't played a lot since Frenz closed. Here and there, a gig at church or the Father/Daughter banquet, but nowhere near the amount of playing I did when Frenz was around. And I think a little piece of my heart stayed behind when the doors closed. There are folks I saw there that I don't know if I'll ever connect with again, since that was our common link.

But I discovered that I still love to play this sort of gig. It was a blast. Add to that the dimension of standing to play for most of the two hours, and it's even more amazing. Vicki took a few pictures of me standing, playing the wind controller, and it kind of shocks me to see how far I've come. Some firsts from ArtPrize:

a) Not being overwhelmed at the logistics of taking a whopping car load of equipment downtown, unloading it at the corner of Division and Cherry, getting it all inside and set up, playing for a couple of hours, tearing it all down, and gettting it all back into the car and home. We went, we gigged, we returned, I thrived. Or as I usually say to Vicki in the car on the way home, "We've seen a million faces, and we ROCKED them all!!" (Did I mention that The Deadliest Catch is one of my favorite shows, watched in mondo-delay on DVD since we don't do television in real time?)

(I'll admit, Vicki did a lot of the hauling at home, up and down the basement stairs. It still gives me a few problems, carrying some heavy stuff up and down stairs. It also makes me remember how hard it was to move around when I weighed 480, and how much Vicki had to do for me in those days. I took down the heaviest stuff, but she did most of it, being the amazing and wonderful lady she is. Total props to my baby!)

b) I was wearing a very lovely shirt, short sleeve button down and totally something I'd NEVER wear. Vicki found it at Goodwill, brought it home, discovered it's a men's shirt that was hiding in the woman's stuff, said "just for fun, try this on," saw that it fit, and said, "it's yours."

And I have to admit, I dig it. :-D

c) At no time was I embarrassed, imagining that folks coming in the door were thinking, "who's the fat dude playing the weird little flutey thingies?" I played, offering up my best, and folks enjoyed. I know - I watched them.

d) I was honored, thrilled, and delighted to do what little I can do to support the work of Dégagé. They are a ministry worthy of your interest and support, and my little efforts seem so small in their great work, but I offer what I can and am blessed to help.

3) Ya Load 18 Months, Wha'daya Get?

(Does anybody even remember the song that was misquoted from? Think Tennessee Ernie Ford. Does anybody even remember Tennessee Ernie Ford? I'm so stinkin' old...)

September 26 was my 18 month checkup. Official pre-surgery weight: 414. "Official" 18 month weight: 219. Now, that was with shoes... I've been weighing all along sans shoes, so my progress reports have been based on that. When I was on the scale getting my height measured (I'm shrinking a LOT - I used to be over 5'9", now I'm 5'7". Crud.), the number was 216.9 without my shoes.

In 18 months.


All is pretty much on target as far as my health. We've got a few things to check or keep on top of, but nothing that we didn't expect going in. No surprises, no setbacks, no complications, just adjustments. And lots of grace. And a thankful heart.

Today is October 5th. Before me today is a counseling appointment, then heading to my North Office (Biggby on the Beltline) for an afternoon of music editing and some time catching up with my bro, J-Billy. Then home for the pot roast that we put into the crock at 7:30 this morning - and I do mean WE. Vicki washed potatoes, I chopped and loaded, we seasoned the roast, packed everything in, and put on the lid.

And at the end of the day, I won't collapse. I won't fade. I'll just head off to sleepy land having had a full day. And I'll wake up tomorrow, not having to recover from a busy day, but ready to tackle another one.

And that is sweet indeed, so far removed from my life 18 months ago that I can't even remember how I lived before this.

The moral of the story? Celebrate today, my dear friends. Celebrate the small graces, the little gifts that God puts in your path today and every day. There are amazing things going on all around you every day, if you (and I) will just take the time to ask God to open our eyes and let us see His hand at work.

Look for grace today, and celebrate the gift.

PS - (added by Vicki) - "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift -- that is why it is called the 'present'!"