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, November 30, 2011

The Advent Writings, Day 2: Consideratus

Consideratus - examine/look at/inspect; consider closely, reflect on/contemplate; investigate (Source: William Whitaker's Words)

What an amazing day! What was supposed to be 1-2 inches of snow turned into a blazingly sunny, chilly but beautiful day. A day when Grand Rapids bid farewell to Fred Meijer. A day when I left the car parked at home, and rode the trike to my Biggby office. Light, marvelous light, brilliant light, abundant light.

I think introspection and deep pondering is best saved for sunny days. Grey days, when one would think it'd be best to curl up with a book and some cocoa in front of a fire, don't make the best pondering days for me. The grey outside tends to call up the grey inside, and it all goes south from there. Do your pondering when the sun is shining, and the light within tends to rise up and join it.

Why yes, I do struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder - why do you ask?

So what do I see?

I see brown all around, the leaves having long left the branches, the world shutting down for a chilly nap. And yet I see people, almost as if they're picking up where nature left off, putting up lights and trees and other shiny bits. Bringing out red and green and gold, wrapping and stars, snowmen and reindeer.

And lights. Lots and lots and lots of lights.

Cozy Christmas sweaters, some of which are so horrible that they should never see the light of day (which is exactly why they get trotted out every year...), make their appearance. We show our willpower and restraint to not hit the Christmas playlist on the ol' iPod until 12:01 on Thanksgiving morning, while at the same time getting disgusted looks on our faces when the seasonal offerings get thrown up on store shelves at 12:01 on Halloween morning.

In some ways, we charge into the season, and can't get there fast enough. In some ways, we dig in our heels and try to keep the days from flying by. And in some ways, we get ready for the letdown that we know is coming, 12:01 on the morning of January 2nd, when the bullet train of the holidays vanishes over the hill, out of sight until next year. The 2011 edition of the Greatest Show in December is a wrap.

What about Advent?

If the season is indeed about preparation, looking forward to the arrival of the King, why does it sometimes feel that when He gets here, we hit a wall at 60 mph - all that rushing force meets the immovable object of the new year. What good is all that preparation if we don't do anything with it after the calendar turns over? We go from Advent to what? Do you know? The Church year is about moving mindfully through the seasons, so what happens next? What are we preparing for?

Not so fast, Grasshopper - we'll turn that page later.

Anticipation, preparation, excitement - not just for the purpose of celebrating one day, or even one week, but for a greater purpose: making the coming of the King a reality in our lives all year long.

What if we go through Advent mindfully aware that all this preparation is not just for celebrating the arrival of the King, but preparing to step into this new year having restored Him to His proper place in our lives? What if the point of this is getting ready to see this entire year as an opportunity to live as people of the King?

What if this year the decorations, the shiny bits, the songs, the celebration... what if the whole point is taking that light and joy and making it an everyday thing, because the King has come? He is here, He is with us, and we don't ever have to live in the darkness alone again.

To take an idea from a song by Sara Groves ("I am the moon, with no light of my own. Still you have made me to shine..."), what if we become the shiny bits, to reflect the King's light all through the new year? What if we ARE the Christmas lights, not to be taken down and stuffed away in a box marked Christmas decorations, but left out to glow beautifully the whole year long? The celebration never ends, never gets swallowed up in the mundane, because He never ends, and He never gets swallowed up in the mundane!

I think my focus through this Advent season is going to be preparation for the year that is coming. I want to mindfully note the joy of Christmas, the way that we all put aside so much of the "same old same old" and embrace the different schedule, the additional gatherings, the busyness, the craziness (much different than madness, by the way) and all the extra good stuff that we cram into this season. Then I want to take that excitement and keep it to sprinkle through the year to come.

We'll celebrate the arrival of the King, but the greatest news is that He stays. He's here. I'd like to see what this new year could look like if I try to live in that reality. To be shining all year with Christmas light.

Instead of dreading the train disappearing over the next hill, taking Advent promise and Christmas joy with it, I want to eagerly climb on board and ride that bad boy into the new year, shining with light that's not my own, looking forward to the adventure that He has waiting for me.

And for each of us.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you."
Isaiah 60:1 (TNIV)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Advent Writings, Day 1: Introit

Introit - enter, go in or into; invade
(Source: William Whittaker's Words)

Advent - preparing, getting ready, anticipation, expectation...
(Source: Cal's Questionable Randomness)

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Now, for those from traditions where the Church Year isn't followed or celebrated, you might not know what that is. Feel free to Google that baby, and come right back.

(insert theme from "Jeopardy")

(repeat theme from "Jeopardy")

(insert sound of crickets)

(add sound of foot tapping)

(and a heavy sigh or two)

Alright, welcome back. Although I must ask, did you really HAVE to check your Facebook and Twitter on the way back? Really? Ok...

The thing I love about Advent, and the thing that made me miss it when we were at a church that didn't celebrate it, is that sense of preparation - taking time in the days leading up to Christmas to prepare for the celebration, to mindfully approach the reason we celebrate, rather than having the holidays rush up and flatten us like a steamroller.

Last year, I was steamrollered.

Now, this was a gestalt thing. Huh? You don't know "gestalt?" Well, go Googl... no. I barely got you back last time. I'll handle this...

Gestalt = "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts"

That'll be enough to carry on with - feel free to explore further. Gestalt is one of those things that help me understand how my world works (or doesn't work sometimes). Anyway, last year I was in my first year post-surgery, still in the middle of the mental chaos and not really recognizing myself yet. Still not working, still learning all the things that go with my new life, still wondering what hit me, what was still kicking my butt, and where it would all lead.

Now, top that with a large dose of holiday madness, seasonal overcommitment, and much, much shorter days for someone who has SAD (look it up - on your own time), and you've got a happy season but not a happy camper. Any part of this is bearable - put it all together, and gestalt makes it a stone around your neck. The relief came in the form of a white-knuckle drive to Missouri, a truly amazing Christmas spent with dear family, and taking January off to think, to write, and to let the dust settle.

So I'm a little anxious about Advent this year. And am determined to NOT have a replay of the previous year. (Except for the Missouri thing. I SO wish we could go back, but that's not the plan this year. It'll be nice to have Christmas at home, in our church with our friends and family, but Missouri was AMAZING!) So here begins the writings of Advent. I'm going to try and write each day of Advent, starting now, and use my blog to keep myself grounded. I want to get to Christmas day with a joyful, thankful heart, overwhelmed with the reality of God's son, not only as the babe in the manger, but the living, loving Lord of my life today and every day.

I have two, possibly three extra things on my calendar for this month, and that's it. (Hopefully, anyway - if someone named DeVos or VanAndel happened to call and say "we need some whistle background for a gala event," yeah, I'd take that call... Come to think of it, if someone named [insert any name here, including yours] happened to call and say "we're having a Sunday School / Small Group / Senior Saints / Church Banquet / YouGetTheIdea gathering and want some background music," yeah, I'd take that call. I love to play, especially Christmas music, and I only have one gig on the books to play at this year. I might take my windsynth along to Christmas dinner this year, just to get to play my faves... we'll see. :-D)

Other than that, I'm keeping things out of the schedule. Work projects, they continue. Voice work for WCSG, check. Editing work, yes. But extra parties, activities, etc? Not so much. A few mindful things with friends, time to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies (The Polar Express! A Christmas Carol - the Patrick Stewart version, which rocks the world!), but most importantly, time to listen, to think, to read and to write. In this way, I hope to prepare, to heal, to get ready, and to mindfully celebrate the joy of our Savior's birth.

The Advent Writings will give me a place to express wonder and joy, a place to shed some sadness from the past, to ask some questions of the present, and to look to the future, when our Christmas joy is made real and our faith is made sight. Thanks to all 1.394217 of you (we've lost a few since I last counted, but hey - it's the holidays) for joining me for this ride. Hopefully God will use these random babblings to get our eyes on Advent, on Jesus, and on being ready for the coming of the King - then AND now and to come.

"Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus - there is room in my heart for Thee."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Many, Many Questions

In this blog, there are number of categories, or "tags." And, one that I've mentioned a number of times is the tag called "The Stones" - the signposts and reminders I leave myself as I continue this journey into my new life. Those things I need to look back on to see where I've come from, where I am going, and the goodness of God who walks with me through it all.

Along the way, especially in the last six months or so, I've been acquiring a number of questions - things that aren't going as I expected, or areas that don't seem to be falling into line with the rest of this new life. Things that seem to be resisting the new and holding on (with a death grip of steel) to the old. And some things that just seem to be confusing the stuffing out of me.

(Like, for example, why oh WHY did my hair decide to not only start to fall out, but to turn rebelliously curly in the process, thus leaving me with a bad case of Chia Pet? I liked short straight hair - I knew what to do with it. This shaggy mop? Not so much.)

(For the record, the mop got cut. Chia Pet gone, short hair back. Ahhhh....)

So, here I raise a stone of questions, so that when I look back, perhaps I can see that the answer finally came, or the question became meaningless. Perhaps by the act of bringing these questions out into the physical world, they'll rattle around a little less loudly in the ol' noodle, and make room for other stuff that might actually be more important.

So, to all 1.927582 of you who regularly read this poopy, here be the questions. If you decide to bail at this point, no one would blame you. If you read these, and the answers jump out at you with the full brilliance of a summer day, let me know. Gently. With great compassion, 'k?

Here's the windup... the pitch...

Why do I find it so difficult to work at home? What is lingering there that causes me to want to just sit down, numb up, and lose a day? Is it just me being stubborn or spoiled? Are there habit patterns from my old life that are so imprinted on my life at home that I can't rewire around them? Is it the clutter and chaos that keeps me from forming new habits?

How can I move from seeing all of the clutter around the house to actually getting rid of it, and to actually selling a whole ton of it? I have books, ebooks, ideas, inspiration - enough to make a band across Kent County, and yet I do nothing with it. I don't take a step, even a faltering one or a wrong one. Or I try one thing (like listing a bass amp on Craigslist), it fails, so I give up.

Why do I waste so much time? Why am I perfectly content to allow everything to run in slow motion?

How is it that I manage to make a commitment to play a gig, practice, show up early with all my needed gear, do the gig well, tear down in an efficient fashion, and execute the whole thing with total focus, but can't manage to bring the same focus and determination to a list of things to do in a single day?

Why does an external structure always make me respond, but any internal structure I try to create gets ignored? What part of me thinks so little of myself that I feel free to take my goals, ideas and dreams and flush them down the biffy?

How can I justify taking things that Vicki depends on me to do, and just letting them slide? Or things I've committed to do, but that don't have a firm, in stone, do-or-die deadline? How can I just let those shuffle off and not feel shame at disappointing friends?

What am I supposed to do when I grow up? When am I going to grow up?

How do I narrow down my many, many interests into the few that I actually should do? Who decides what I should be doing and what I should let go? If I'm the one that decides that, how do I decide it?

Why do I almost never have a simple answer to the question "what do you want to do?"

Why, even though I've tried to shift this around in my thinking, do I always find myself asking "what am I supposed to do?" Not "what do I want to do?" or "what do I get to do?", but "what do I have to do?" Why do I not see joy and freedom in those choices, but just numbing indecision when I have to make those decisions instead of having them made for me? Am I afraid of screwing it up?

How can I consistently shift my worldview around to begin and end with God's abundant grace? How do I frame each day with the same view that I see my journey with? Why don't I see every day as a gift - as great of a gift as when God brought me into this new life? Why don't I view everything in this and each day as another outpouring of that same boundless grace?

Why is it so hard for me to make a plan for the day, write down the plan, and then actually DO the plan? Why do I so easily take the plan, use it to wipe crud off of my shoes, and then do whatever I jolly well please with the day, which usually ends up being nothing?

Will I ever be able to work by myself, either at home or in an office or studio? Or will I always need to work somewhere where there are other people around, in "public?"

How are we ever going to survive financially? Will I ever have a job that brings in regular, dependable income, or will my dear wife have to rely on her income alone, not knowing when or if her free spirit muffinhead of a husband will bring home some bacon... or turkey... or beef... or beans for that matter?

How do we dig out of a hole that's so deep that it swallows any chance of seeing our dreams? Can someone ever recover from that kind of darkness?

How does one go about selling all their crap? Actually selling it, not caring what kind of income it brings in, just wanting the freedom of no longer having it around? And the blessing of no longer paying to store the mountain of crap from my Mom's house that we simply don't give a wet slap about?

Why do I have all these amazing ideas - things to get done today, ideas to develop in music, things I could do as a magician or storyteller, stuff I could make and sell on Etsy, things that might actually help justify my existence on this planet, stuff that would make Vicki smile because she's been waiting so long for me to get my crap in gear and get it done - and when it comes time to actually get started on them, I go blank? Numb? Shut down and do nothing? Where's the disconnect that happens between walking in the door with all these great ideas and intentions, and having them all collapse into oblivion by the time I hang up my coat? How do I heal that fracture, make the connection whole?

Why do I feel like the light gets sucked out of me daily?

How is it that I listen to the Bible every day, but most days it seems to have so little impact my life, or how I walk? Yes, it keeps me mindful of how I must start my day with God, how I should walk with Him all through the day, and end the day in Him, but I'm so quick to drop that and just go off into numbville that I get lost in the shuffle.

Why do I spend so much time asking questions, and so little time actually doing things?

Why am I just sitting here now asking questions, instead of doing something to find the answers?

(Ok - I know that one. Writing / working through stuff is an important part of my journey. Without the journaling, I wouldn't be anywhere near as far along the path as I am today. The time I spend writing is time well spent, and essential to my future.)

Again, and again, and again, I ask "what am I supposed to DO?" This is such a huge issue, such a major lynchpin, that I'll be wading through it in another post. Soon. Like, very soon.

Is it time to ask my doctor if Cimbalta is right for me?

(I know the answer to that one too... besides, I'm already on enough happy pills as it is.)

How is it that we've had a new garage door, paid for and waiting at the store, sitting there since April, and here it is, November, snowing, and the thing still isn't even at our house, much less put up? And yes, we've had friends offer to help us haul the puppy home, and others offer to give us guidance on putting the thing up. We (and I mostly mean me) just haven't done anything about it.

*** You really need to take a moment to pray for Vicki. And give her a hug if you see her today. This is the kind of stuff she lives with on a daily basis, patiently waiting as her husband is being rebuilt before her eyes. She rides through the triumph and the confusion, the delights and the disappointments, the joys and the hardships, and yet remains so delighted at the progress so far. And remains patient as I then write down all the stuff that I probably should keep away from the light of day, trotting the ups and downs of our lives out there for all to look upon.

I can't say enough about her that adequately expresses how much she means to me. As I said, give a hug if you see her. ***


(the following imagery brought to you by the "Cal really wants to learn how to weave and is getting a little obsessed by it" foundation...)

The Master Weaver makes the tapestry. Sometimes, He has to unravel many, many threads to correct the weaving and produce the design He has in mind. Most often, he takes the dark places, the threads that we consider repulsive or ugly, and uses them to strengthen the design in ways we couldn't possibly expect or imagine.

It's been said before that we only see the underside, where the threads cross and get knotted, where there is no design, only chaos. And someday, only someday will we see the design that He was producing all along.

I don't buy it.

If we only saw the chaos, without a glimpse of the beautiful, the order, the wonder, the final magnificent design, we'd never have the heart to carry on.

Yes, we trust the Weaver, sometimes in blind faith, trusting that He who holds the shuttle and the threads in His hands knows exactly where each thread goes. But I think that He also knows that if we never have a glimpse of the design, the purpose, that we'd never learn to endure the chaos. So every once in a while, He lets us peek at the other side. He shows us the beautiful, the order, the plan, the wonder of His weaving. He gives us a glimpse of His hand at work.

He gives us hope.

So, Father, Master, Weaver, Keeper, Sustainer, I lay my questions at Your feet. They are a burden I can't carry alone. I see the knots, I see the twisted fibers, I see the dark places where the threads bring me shame. I see the places where You've cut away and remade the tapestry. And I see those glimpses of hope when the skill of Your hands reveals wonder and beauty I could never dream of. Thank You that my questions never offend You, they never make You cross or impatient, and that the answers to these and many others are all in Your keeping and in Your time.

Thank You for hope. Thank You for grace. Thank You for mercy and patience. Thank You for abundant love. Thanks for knowing all the answers, and sharing some of them at the exact right time. Remind me that the weight of them is something I don't have to bear, but instead to ask them and then hand them over to Your keeping, just as I am in Your keeping, woven into something beautiful in Your time.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Face of My Father

"You have forgotten the face of your father!"

This is a very serious rebuke from the world of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, which I do not, and I mean DO NOT recommend. OK, as with most, if not all of his writing, the story is compelling and draws you in, so that by the time you realize just how deep, dark, graphic, and disturbing the landscape is, you can't pull the handle on the ejector seat - you have to hang on for the ride, to see how things come out. But it's a tough ride. Well written? Yes. Hard, disturbing, dark? Mega yes.

So, in Mid-World, in the reality of the Gunslinger, when you have done something shameful, you hear this stern rebuke - "you have forgotten the face of your father!" If you have done something with honor, the inverse is true - "you have not forgotten the face of your father."

A day ago, I forgot the face of my father. As with just about everything in our lives, there are multiple layers and reasons for this, so we're allowed to pursue some measure of balance between "I'm a boneheaded dufus of titanic proportions" and "hey man, give me a break - I'm only human." The balance between extending ourselves grace and holding ourselves accountable.

BUT... I had forgotten the face of my father.

What does that mean? Well, I can't speak for Mr. King (or for the legions of Dark Tower fans, most of whom would threaten me with vile retribution at an incorrect interpretation of the "sacred" writings - which is to say, "any interpretation but theirs." Help me...), but I can speak to my own view of these words, poor and unlearned as I am (thus trying to deflect a few of the fiery darts of the raving fanpersons and their swift and terrible e-responses).

When I have forgotten the face of my father, I'm not talking about Oscar. Truth be told, if I want to see his face, I only need look in a mirror - when the dust settled on the majority of my weight loss, I turned into his doppelganger. I wear the face of my dad - my father.

When "I've forgotten the face of my father," I've forgotten my history. I've forgotten what brought me here - what has taught me, forged me, what makes me who I am. I've forgotten the path, the struggles, the triumphs, the lessons learned and the grace and mercy of my Father. When I have forgotten the face of my Father, I've disconnected from my center, my purpose, my call, my hope, and my heart.

A serious rebuke indeed.

In this sense, you could hear Nathan saying to David, "you have forgotten the face of your Father!" The Hebrews gathered around the gold cow - "you have forgotten the face of your Father!" Peter hearing the rooster crow - "you have forgotten the face of your Father!"

David replies, "I have sinned."

The Hebrews wail and cry. Moses tosses the tablets.

Peter weeps.

To realize that you've forgotten the face of your Father, is to know deep, deep shame. To feel the weight of responsibility for your wrong actions or attitudes. No dodging, no guilt shifting, no blame game - you are face to face with the absolute knowledge of your wrongness.

"I cry pardon, sai." That would be the response of the broken one in the world of the Gunslinger.

I realized that I had gone through my day being snitty, lazy and impatient. I was trying to use food to self-medicate, as I had done so many times in my past, making myself not only ashamed but sick as well.

(I can force my new system to do something like this, but it will let me know, in NO uncertain terms, that I have not only forgotten the face of my father, but his innards as well.)

I numbed up and shut down in my chair, instead of going to Tai Chi class, which I had planned on doing, and was actually looking forward to (it was Halloween and I was planning to show up in clown face. Would have been funny - doing Tai Chi in my big blue and yellow shoes. Don't know how my teacher would have felt about it, but I'd have laughed a lot...).

I forgot the face of my Father. I turned away from my history, what has brought me to this place. The things that have made me the new creature I am today. The grace and mercy that has so illuminated my life that it shines out from me, blinding at times. I stepped off the path, I turned back toward the bondage of my past, and I embraced the things set aside instead of holding to the new life God has set before me.

I cry pardon, sai.

Now, it's time to begin to restore the balance. Not to wallow in the failure, but to learn from it and step away from it. And not to just shrug it off as a "bad hair day," (since I have those most every day in my new Chia Pet life) but to accept accountability for my choices. To neither punish myself or to just ignore it. To see what really happened, why I responded the way I did, and to make mindful plans to help correct this in the future.

To remember the face of my Father.

Will I forget again? Absolutely. Will I have to revisit and relearn? Yup. Will I ever get it down perfectly?...

Someday - when I see the face of my Father.