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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Empty Quiver

A friend of mine has a really, really wonderful blog that challenges me, encourages me, and makes me think - sometimes all at the same time, which is almost too much awesomeness for my little noggin to process.

*insert sound of baby rattle here as the noggin is shaken about...*


Oh - the location of such wonder and awesomeness? I thought you’d never ask...

Suzanne Burden, short of stature, great in wisdom, profound in writing

She’ll promptly blush at the above description, but I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. So there. Nyah nyah nyah.

I never claimed to be mature - just sincere.

Anyway, she and her beloved are wrestling with issues of infertility, wondering if the life of a childless couple is on their horizon. She describes the struggle on the aforementioned blog, asking how the church can better love those around us whose quivers are empty - through infertility, choice, or other issues, the couples around us that are childless.

So how do we reach out to them?

Frankly, in the body of Christ, being childless can make one feel as though they’ve been awarded second-class citizen status. After all, as I’ve heard both from the pulpit and at marriage seminars, the main point of marriage is to bring children into the world. That’s it. Period. Class dismissed.


My friend then asked for comments on her post, especially from guys of the male persuasion, of which I am one, although when I'm crocheting, some might raise an eyebrow, but really should get over it.


My perspective isn't really looking at the childless from the outside, but rather from the inside, since my beloved and I are one of “those” couples.

Why? How did we wind up with an empty quiver?

Although details aren't really necessary for anybody who isn't herself or myself, I will say that it was a combination of physical issues, and desire (or lack thereof).

My mom once went so far as to get up in my grill and ask how I could deny herself the thing that she so desperately wanted, to be a mother, as all could plainly see right on her face.

My beloved held up a hand and said, “Um... can I say something?”

And that was that.

As usual, my beloved and I were of one heart and mind. I don’t say that in any sort of prideful way - it astonishes me how closely the Lord fit us together from day one. Thirty-one years later, I can see why - the kind of challenges that were before us would have shattered us both if He hadn't joined us so tightly together from the first day - to make us strong enough to stand together as one.

We simply never felt the desire, the compulsion, the leading to pursue having children. Nor the drive to pursue the path of trying to overcome infertility or other issues. Or the call to consider adoption or fostering. We honestly, truthfully, and openly didn't feel that pursuit to be our path.

“How can that be,” I hear some scream, “since bringing children into the world is the sole purpose and responsibility of a married couple? It’s your first and most important duty!!”

Well, because our Father excels in working outside the lines and can't really be contained by boxes or rules. Even His own, as we perceive them in our brokenness.

"Is He a tame lion?"

"Aslan? No, He's not tame! But He's good."


(If you didn't recognize that quote, it's probably because I mangled it. Or because you haven't read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. And if you haven't, hang your head in shame, get your hiney in gear and go GIT a copy. Now go read it - THIS INSTANT!)

(Sorry to shout - but you really should have read that book at this point in your life. Actually, you really should have read all of the Chronicles of Narnia at this point in your life. And if you reply, "I've seen the movie," "I've seen the BBC adaptations," or "I've listened to the audio dramas," but haven't actually READ THE BOOKS, consider yourself slapped with a semi-soggy dog tail, and get thee to a library or bookstore POST HASTE!!)

(That semi-soggy dog tail was still attached to the dog, just for the record. Otherwise it'd be gross. And bad. And just plain wrong. Amen.)

(Yes, lest I be accused of pointing out a speck with a beam in my eyeball, I have read the books many, many times. I've seen the movies, I've seen the BBC adaptations, and I worked in radio when the audio dramas were released and they aired for the very first time. So yeah, my eye is beam-free.

At least at this moment. 

Don't look a few seconds from now - I can't promise anything.)

Now, back to what the HECK we were talking about...

“Selfishness!” would be the verdict from some. “It takes courage and selflessness to become parents. Obviously you are both more concerned with your own selfish desires and comforts than your responsibility as a married couple to raise children in the fear of the Lord. And obviously there is a huge gap in your walk with Jesus that you’ve never repented of.”

Or at least I can imagine such commentary, even if it’s never said to our faces. Or even behind our backs. Or anyplace else, for that matter.

Honestly, those comments all contain truth. Selflessness and courage are requirements for parents, even if those parents feel non-selfless and non-courageous. Frankly, I think the ones who get it right are the ones who are sure they don't have what it takes to do it. His strength, our weakness after all.

But sometimes, maybe selflessness is realizing that parenthood isn't your path. Courage could be following what you see as God’s leading for your marriage, even in a flood that seems to push the other way. Selfishness might be the act of going along with what’s expected, rather than painting a scarlet letter on your front and a bull’s-eye on your tushy.

Or that all might be a load of Cal-flavored hooey. I’m always the first to admit that, by the way...

As much as it might irk some and resonate with others, I honestly believe that one path does not fit all marriages. As strongly as I would defend the path we took, trying humbly to follow our Father (which is the first and most important requirement), I would defend the path of the couple going through hell on earth to overcome infertility issues, or the tortuous ups and downs in pursuit of adoption or being foster parents. In humbly following God’s leading, their paths are as valid as ours.

Or ours is as valid as theirs, putting a different angle on it.

So in our life of faith, within the body of Christ, where does that put us, as a couple sans children? How are we treated? How do we feel? Do we avoid Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Sundays like the plague? Are we blacklisted because we don’t bring little ones along to the gathering to play with all the other little ones? Does this one thing we don't have in common with most around us raise a gulf that isolates us forever from fellowship?

(And every time I refer to Beka as our doggie daughter, with herself and I playing the roles of doggie daddy and doggie momma, do I deserve a wet slap in the face with a live badger?

I know of someone who would answer a hearty "Yea, verily" to that. And he's welcome to his opinion - I've got enough Beka exhaust in the backyard to return any volleys he sends in my direction.)

Anyway, does being childless in a church teeming with full quivers make us feel like pork chops at a kosher wedding?

Yes, sometimes.

But not always. And not intentionally.

Truly, though - how could it not? In any given church, one of the great commonalities is rearing the kiddos. Every time a child is dedicated in our church, we are reminded that all of us, the whole congregation, take a part in standing alongside the parents and bringing up the children to know God's love, and in His time, to respond to His love in Jesus Christ. Rearing the kiddos is a big part of the whole life-as-His-body gig.

(If it wasn't, there'd only be old people to play the shepherds and wise guys and others in the Christmas pageant. And that'd be sad indeed. I'd make a weird shepherd...)

If it weren't for bunny trails, I'd probably never write anything. Really.

*Cue the enraged villagers with the torches and the pitchforks chanting "DEATH TO BUNNY TRAILS!!!"*

Back to the topic at hand. Or foot. Someplace like that...

Does being a childless couple make us feel isolated, separated, or excluded from being a part of the church?

I suppose it could, if we let it. Easier said than done, and easier after year 31 than years 1-5. Time tends to make it that way.

We usually answer the "any kids?" question with a smile and "Only a 4-legged one." And can also mention the many niecelets and neffypoohs we've accumulated along the way. We may not be parents, but that doesn't stop us from being a semi-decent Aunt & Uncle, who love their nieces (and neffypoohs) to pieces.

(Three of our niecelets have been told since their itty bitty years to refer to me as Weird Uncle Cal. I figure somebody in the family has to wear that title, so it might as well be me.

I've also threatened to have myself stuffed when I shuffle off this mortal coil, so that they have to pass me around like the yearly white elephant Christmas gift. Or perhaps have my ashes put into a teddy bear or a sock monkey - perhaps an evil sock monkey with fangs - to totally freak out one of my neffypoohs in particular.

I can hear the joyous Yuletide conversation...

"It's YOUR year to take Uncle Cal!" "Heck NO, I had him last year!" "No you didn't - you left him sitting on your porch!" "Hey - that counts!!"

Hee hee hee hee)

Bunny trails. Love 'em.

As for some of the other potential places we could get gobsmacked, living the existence of empty nesters without the grandchildren therein, I guess I've always seen it as more a case of what I make of it, not what's being projected onto me. (Or expected of me...)

I don't think anyone in our church would go into something thinking, "We'll want to be careful around the Olsons, since they're one of 'those' couples." And, at least from my point of view, I wouldn't want them to have to. I'm aware of our empty quiver, and I'm aware that much of our church life revolves around family units where the quivers are full, so things will always be slanted in that direction. And that's alright - We're capable of applying filters and screening out any unintentional offense, at least after 30+ years of marriage.

But I'm also a guy, so perhaps my waters don't run deep enough to be troubled by such things. Maybe the water off this duck's back gives my beloved a soaking, or did at one time.

In one-on-one interaction, though, I certainly can see wanting to be sensitive to the childless couple - especially for those couples who are fighting, pushing, desperately wanting to be parents and so far, no dawn breaks on the horizon. It's an open wound, vulnerable to all sorts of salt being poured in, especially unintentionally.

There's only been one time, at least that I can recall - herself might know of others - that I felt excluded. And that word "unintentionally" was certainly applicable here.

Let's roll that beautiful bean footage, shall we?

We were, years ago, part of a small group. And as happens in the course of life, some couples left and others joined. But at a certain point, for the first time, the dynamic of the group changed...

Unintentionally? Absolutely.

The "common ground" of the group had changed to "we're all parents," which was the context the new folks knew the others from... Except for us. They were new to us, we were new to them, and the commonality they shared with the others was lacking with us. Over time, maybe we could have found other common ground, but there didn't seem to be any at the outset, or at least nothing as powerful in their lives as that mutual joy and responsibility.

And though this wasn't intended, that slight shift left us at the station while the train moved along. Totally understandable, absolutely explainable, but there it was. The new folks were so geeked to get to know their friends better, since they were already friends through parenting Sunday School classes and other youth and children-related activities, so to them this small group would naturally extend into that realm as well...

And Vicki and I felt excluded. Out of place. Like we didn't have anything to bring to the party, it moved two zip codes away, and didn't leave a forwarding address.

Ok - maybe that was a little over the top. A little.

I repeat - this was not intentional. It was simply a changing of the dynamic of a group, a subtle shift that no one intentionally made. It just happened.

Yeah, it was a little over the top. A bit past little, but not near a lot. I think.

So how did we respond?

I'll admit, there were some tears in private. And some hurt. Long-time friends in the group felt the shift, and understood our discomfort.

So did we sit the group down, explain things and give everybody a gentle talking to?


Because of busy lives, the group didn't endure. But our intention had been to quietly withdraw, to step back when the group began to move in this new direction.

That's one of the only times I can remember that we felt excluded. Unintentional? Yup.

Riddle me this, bat friends...

Was the exclusion created by the new group members, or was it created by our perceptions?

Or was it a gestalt thing - the combination of factors that ended up with a result nobody saw coming?

And how often, as my life without offspring moves along, could I perceive a slight where none was intended?

As I said, my perspective has been tempered by 31 years of marriage. Couples in years 1-5 (and certainly beyond...) have many more raw spots open to all kinds of abrasion. For us, we're way over the days of "What if? Why did we? Fostering? Adoption? Even in our 30s, 40s, 50s?" The raw spots have been smoothed away with time and a little wisdom, along with more than a little grace and mercy.

- Grace from the many families that have wrapped arms around us, making us a part of their lives, adding to our quiver beloved niecelets and neffypoohs, some who have called us aunt and uncle since they were old enough to talk.

- Grace from a church family that has grown with us, giving us places to serve, babies to cuddle, kids to interact with and teach, and a home.

- Grace from the kind folks that always make sure my beloved gets a carnation on Mother's Day. She's a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and certainly deserves a flower on that day.

(For the record, she usually gets a card from her doggie kiddo as well, written in scrawling letters and paw prints...)

- Mercy from our Father, who loves His son and daughter, showing us in our later years why the path led this way in our early years.

Romans 8:28: always in perfect focus when viewed in the rear-view mirror.


As a childless couple, how would we wish to be loved and cared for by our church?

There's no easy, one-size-fits-all-situations answer, just as there's no one answer for how to love and care for the parents in our church? Or the empty nesters? Or the grandparents, widows, widowers, or the lonely?

But, from my little window on my weird world, how would we wish to be loved and cared for?

With grace. With love. With a heart for each one, each couple, wherever they are at and whatever season of life they find themselves in, especially in those shadowy areas between the seasons, the tough places of transition.

Life in the body of Christ, at least in my imperfect perspective, means looking beyond my four walls, into the lives and seasons of my brothers and sisters around me, meeting them where they are, just as I would hope they meet me where I find myself...

With an empty quiver, and a full, grateful heart, because of my Father's grace, mercy, and love.

Now, niecelets and neffypoohs - whose year is it to take the Weird Uncle home? Hee hee hee...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gestalt and the Organist

... Wherein Cal discovers that the Perfect Storm can sometimes find you at the console of the king of instruments.

Playing the organ for a church service isn't new to me... I would say "this ain't my first rodeo," but I can't find a nimble way to fit it into the previous sentence. So I won't. And didn't. I think.

Writing, on the other hand, gives me saddle sores not worth mentioning in civilized company. Or around anybody else for that matter. *ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch*

First rodeo indeed...

So it was with proper respect, decent (but not excessive) preparation, and acknowledgement of a certain amount of experience that I headed in to church on a not-too distant Sunday past. I'm always a little nervous playing - when I'm not a little nervous, I know I'm probably doomed from the get-go. A little edge to keep me on my game is a good thing, so that's how I roll.

Fo' schizzle. Word to yo' diapason.**

** Diapason: a type of organ pipe or "voice." Or a funny little knob thingie on some organs that you can watch pop in and out as you press other little button thingies. Whee!

But, as is so often the case, I was looking at one thing, and didn't take into account the things that were piled up next to it...

- playing bass for the first service, then heading down to the sanctuary and the organ therein for the second service.

- doing special music for the offering, while playing the organ for the rest of the service, including getting up from the piano (where I had just sung and accompanied myself), moving right over to the organ, and immediately launching into the Doxology, concluding the offering portion of the festivities.

- being a tad unfamiliar with one or two things about the traditional service, including which of the, I don't know, two thousand versions of the Doxology was "the one" to be using.

- Not noticing that "Crown Him With Many Crowns" had more verses than I expected.

Each of these things are small. If encountered, they'd make a minor speed bump but wouldn't derail the service.

But put them all together?...

The perfect storm. Or, to use one of my favorite words of all time that explains so much about why a simple little activity in one simple little day can gollywhomp me into a whimpering mass...


"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

One thing alone, no biggie. Add another? Still not a big deal. Three? Bring it.

Four? Um... a little heavy lifting, but I can deal with it.

Five? Oh... this is a little tough.

Six? Ouchie. Meesa notsa havin' such an okey dokey kinda day.

And so on. The more that is piled on, the heavier the load... much more than each thing weighed separately. They interact, they work off of each other, and the combination of everything together creates a load that takes much more out of you than you would ever have expected.

Thus wenteth my morning. As in, down. Way down.

Prelude? No sweat - although one of the "big" parts in one of my arrangements had a major fumble that I usually never miss. So a little nervous twinge that I should have shaken right off. One little slip does not kerfluffle a whole morning.

I really wanted to use one of my favorite little funny bits from Facebook here, but couldn't find a way to bring things around to where it would fit... So I'm just going to flop it in here, 'cause nothing else about that morning made rational sense.

Thus, a segue is born...

"Don't be afraid of that spider - it's smaller than you."

"So is a grenade."

Ha ha hee hee ho ho *snort*  Woo.

First hymn - not one of my strongest, so I usually have a little trouble with it. But I made it a point to practice it, especially the tricky part, so even though it might be a little rough, I'll certainly get through it in decent shape...

Said Cal, not knowing that the great musical ping pong paddle of the universe was preparing to serve.

Three verses, three swings, three misses, three outs. It was as if I not only hadn't practiced it, but as if I had never seen that hymn, the sheet music was upside down, and the organ keys were epoxied together in amusing clusters.

All three manuals.** And the pedals.

Honk honk, splat splat, thud.

** Manuals: the fancy-schmancy word for the keyboard thingies on the organ. There can be as few as two or as many as... um... A lot?

(Only redeeming factor: after the turbulence of the first verse, I hit the magic #4 button, producing sounds that, while still audible, were quiet enough to get buried by the piano. Run silent, run deep, run away... Of course, that only works if you can also turn off your instinct to kick in some extra horses at the big parts. *kick in extra stops*  *realize you're still playing like snail snot*  *Run MORE silent, run MORE deep, run FAR FAR away*)

Now I'm beginning to see the shadow on the horizon, hoping that the gales of November weren't about to come early...

Second hymn - easy sauce with extra sprinkles! Only one verse, sung twice. Even has chord symbols, for the notationally challenged, which at that point I was, a bit, sort of.

One minor fumble, in the midst of the easy sauce with extra sprinkles. So, restored confidence found I not. Underlying remnant of anxiety feed did I. Strong in the force am I in my dreams and delusions.

Somewhere along the line, my name got changed to Edmund Fitzgerald. *sigh*

Then, "At 11am, the main hatchway caved in. I said, 'Fellas, it's been good to know ya.' "

Special Music / Offertory - The Lord had been whispering a song in my ear all week, which usually is a good indication that I really should sing or play that song, since that's how He rolls wid me.

Word to yo' metronome.

And as I would expect, the song perfectly aligned with the sermon that was right before it, as God tied it all up with a beautiful bow and put it together in ways that still surprise me even after all these years of seeing it happen again and again. It went beautifully, as if He was protecting it so that the word He wanted to put out there wouldn't be marred by my flailing around.

The only problem was something unique to me - it went so well from a musical and spiritual standpoint, that it nailed me from an emotional standpoint. It drew me into mania when I was neither anticipating it nor prepared with a defense against it. I went so "all in" to the song that I simply had nothing left to pull myself back to balance.

That's called a trigger - It's something that you can be almost certain will push an emotional button and kick the poopy out of your balance. Not good... That's why folks with mental issues keep a eye out for triggers, trying to anticipate them and have a strategy already planned out to either avoid them or to deal with them if unavoidable.

Remember what I said about having to move immediately from the piano to the organ, launching right into the aforementioned Doxology? Yup. The storm hath arrived.

I had no time to breathe, no time to step back from the edge, not even time to realize what had happened and try to apply some of the control I need at a moment like that. So I played away, trying hard to work through the shaking of my hands and the sluggish way my mind was processing what my hands and feet were doing. If all had went well, I might have actually found a moment to recover. After all, I've played the Doxology a few (thousand) times in my life. But...

I realized that I was hearing speed bump after speed bump as the congregation sang... because I wasn't playing the right version of the Doxology, the one they were "used to."

So the emotional snowball gained traction, leaving me less and less able to apply some sort of brakes. And gestalt ain't done with me yet...

The last hymn usually doesn't give me an issue. I know it, I can play it, and so that familiar ground should have let me end strong, right?

Not so much.

The physical and emotional upheaval that started with the special music, and was stirred up with the mangled Doxology pretty much killed the last hymn. I couldn't play the thing well for nuttin', and couldn't get my mind in gear enough to hit the magic #4 button to run silent, run deep, run away.

Then, to cap it off, I totally forgot the last verse of the last hymn. Totally. Didn't even realize it.

I brought the (what I thought was) last verse to a proper conclusion, flipped the page to the benediction song, which I knew was next and would start pretty quickly...

And heard pastor start to sing... the LAST verse.

And the ship started to sink. No lifeboats, no floatation devices, and certainly no time for a string quartet to start playing "Nearer My God To Thee..."

And Celine Dion is right out.

The only redeeming factor of the morning is the fact that our pianist has a black belt in Tai Kwon Piano, is one of the most creative and excellent hymn players I've ever heard, and keeps her head in any sort of storm. She jumped in, and got that last verse going, while I limply tried to help, having finally hit the #4 button so I could flail along and at least get some of the pedal notes right for a little bass support.

Did I mention I had already flipped to the next song? So the hymn I was already struggling with wasn't even in FRONT of me now?

Yeah. Lovely. My hands are shaking, my head is buzzing, my emotions are spinning, and things are not happy-making.

I got through the benediction song, thankfully without a major cul-du-sac, and the postlude was a piece I've played so many times that I could actually get through it. Not well, not the best I've ever done it, but got through it.

Thus ended a piece of live performance art I've since titled, "Well - that was awkward."

Hope you folks enjoyed it, as it was a one-time only, never (by the grace of God) to be repeated performance.

Oi to da Vey.

I mentioned the whole "gestalt" thing, right? All the layers, innocent and non-threatening individually, coming together into a load that I simply couldn't bear. Totally blindsided, had no idea it would go down like that, stunned in the aftermath.

Perhaps a bit wiser. Quite a bit embarrassed.

Now, this is the point in this little tale where folks tell me, "Nobody even noticed - they had no idea you were having a tough morning."

Even with the wrong Doxology and Final Verse - the Phantom Menace??

Not so much.

It simply wasn't "me." It wasn't my usual playing, my usual self, my usual "somewhat flawed but totally from the heart, bring it and take no prisoners, it's been waaay too long since anybody blew the dust outta these pipes" self.

Normally, I finish a morning as an organist accepting that there were some splat chords along the way, but after all is said, done, and apologized for, I still love playing the organ. And I love participating in worship, being able to encourage others to sing to Him... loud.... 'cause if you don't, I'm gonna bury you under a wall of pipes & pedals.

In Christian love and humility, that is.

But this particular morning, all that was left in me was emptiness and the notion that I might as well not finally replace my missing organ shoes so I can actually play with heels AND toes, instead of stumpy, sticky shoes with no heels. (Which to an organist is like taking a couple of fingers off of each hand...)

(My friend Chuck would throw in here, "Hey - I've seen you play in Duck Shoes.** What's the problem?"


1) That was a long time ago;

2) On a Baldwin Fun Machine;

3) And they may have been duck shoes, but they DID have heels.

So there ya go.)

** Duck shoes: rubber-bottomed footwear, ala L.L. Bean and other imitators. Not to be confused with DUCT shoes, which are silver and might have saved my bacon, since everyone knows that duct shoes can fix anything.

Word to yo' shoehorn.

So after that morning, I left with the thought that playing the organ for a service is getting taken off of my "do" list and moved to the "don't do anymore" list. Which would be a shame, because I do love it. Or at least, I did - this particular morning was more like...

"Go, Cal, Go!
Go, Cal, Go!
Around the bowl, and down the hole -
Go, Cal, GO!"

(Yes, my beloved Proofreader. Yes, I did go there.)

So - anybody with me on this whole "I just got hit by a speeding bus right smack dab in the center aisle" kind of morning? And I'm not just talking to my musician peeps, some of whom have their hands in the air, shouting "Preach, Preacher - PREACH!"

Yup, we all have "those" mornings once in a while. Or afternoons. Or evenings for that matter. Gestalt isn't just for breakfast anymore, or just for musicians. Everybody can get gollywhomped by finding themselves on the bottom of a pig-pile that weighs way, way more than you thought it would.

Maybe a little lesson can be learned from this... We all have triggers. We all have corners and tight spots and places that if we aren't careful, we can get trapped or stuck. But God is faithful, and He loves His kids. So even when we feel like we're on the Titanic, He always has a lifeboat ready - always.

As for me, we came home after the service and I got quiet, allowing the aftermath to pass over and things to calm down. My beloved reminded me to not make any decisions or judgements for at least 24 hours, lest it be depression talking and not me.  And now, looking back after time has passed, I can see what happened, and the adjustments I need to make next time to avoid triggers.

Yes, there will be a next time.

And yes, the shoes will be replaced, complete with toes AND heels.

I know that gestalt can kerfluffle the best-laid plans, so all I can do is be aware of my triggers, look carefully at what everything adds up to, and avoid the traps and tight places where I might get stuck. We all get stuck, we all get sad in the aftermath, and God always meets us in the corners and the traps to lead us home. Even through the valley of the shadow of gestalt...

So, the bottom line remains: I love playing the organ, I love encouraging others to sing praise to the Lord... loudly, and I love feeling like the  conductor and the orchestra all wrapped up in one two-handed, ten-fingered (Even though there's much debate about if I actually use my right thumb...) two-footed, two-toed AND two-heeled creature.

Besides - them pipes ain't gonna dust themselves off, are they?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Obsession 1: For Those About To Obsess, We Salute You

Obsession... by Captain Cal.


No, this has nothing to do with fragrance, underwear models, or designer anything.

It does have something to do with this mangled quote - "A time to obsess, and a time to refrain from obsession."

*Insert Solomon palm smack here...*

I think I want to become obsessed. And in true Calbertesque fashion, I want to become obsessed with multiple things. There are valid reasons I'm a Jack of a FEW Trades. I'm also a Cal of a few issues, so the concept of obsession presents a few problems for me...

Obsession can be dangerous.

Obsession can be obsessive.

I can be redundant.

Hee hee ha ha ho ho *snort* Woo...

Where did this bunny trail start? With an episode of Ace Of Cakes, oddly enough. One of the decorators, Anna I believe (although it's been SO long since I watched them that her name could be Brunhilda for all I know...) had an assignment in art school to become obsessed with something.

She chose Scrabble.


But get this - she dove in so far, learned that she loved it so much, that she became a championship-level Scrabble player. Her assignment to develop an obsession became something that she ended up making a part of her life.

Sometimes, obsession is alright. (Insert mangled Doobie Brothers tune here - "Obsession is just alright with meeee...") For the right reasons, in the right way, with balance and care, being obsessed isn't dangerous or wrong.

After all, we need to love God with everything we are and have, aren't we? Obsession of the absolute right kind, eh wot?

But the world is filled with obsession targets, most of which are not worth our attention.

You and I are surrounded by things that would love to be obsessed over. Media shouts for our allegiance, status cries for our devotion, materialism screams for more, more, more...

It seems (or appears to me anyway) that the stuff that yells the loudest is the stuff least worthy of our obsession.

But perhaps we've gone too far the other direction - since so many things can be obsessed over, since getting involved with something that eclipses other things is sometimes called "idolatry," and since we limited sheep only have so much attention to go around, well, the key is not to obsess over anything. Keep it all out there, where it can tickle our fancy, please our senses, peak our interest, but not become so intimate that we could be called out about it.

And perhaps we're kidding ourselves. Perhaps we obsess over stuff while pretending to keep it at arm's length.

I don't know - I have enough trouble getting my shoes on the right feet and tied in the morning; I have no idea how short of a leash something can be kept on before it ends up as an appendage. 

I like my metaphors mixed... Stirred, not shaken.

I believe that obsessing over the right things may be alright. That choosing the things we love, the things that matter, the ways we invest ourselves, and doing it mindfully, with careful awareness, is a great way to be "all-in" to what really counts rather than being force-fed obsessions (or at least distractions) by whatever shouts the loudest.

There are people and things I have given my pledge to, that are worthy of spending my time and attention on, and indeed MUST receive my first and greatest devotion. To do any less would be very, very wrong.


Beyond the basics, the non-negotiables, well, the waters grow a bit cloudy because I'm not talking about the people I love, or the people I like, or those who just deserve my respect. Nor am I talking about responsibilities and duties - the things that must be done, or that already have a seat at the front of the bus. All good stuff, but not where this is going...

What areas of my life, my interest, my attention are worthy of obsession? The pursuits that could and should receive the kind of investment from me that allows me to excel at them, to have more than a passing fling with them, or to dive into them so fully that they become a part of my life? What are those things that I want to be totally into - the things that I connect so deeply with that investment of my time and attention is a worthy pursuit, especially when seen in balance with everything else that makes up life?

What are those things that mean so much that hours upon hours spent with them are reasonable and right? 

And no, my Pez collection probably isn't one of them. But it does make me smile, so for now it stays...

Someone said that in order to really excel at something, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice. (My head says it might have been Jon Acuff, but my head has been known to sing the theme song of "Star Trek: Voyager" in a chicken voice, so not what you'd call a reliable source...)

But then, someone else came along and disputed that number, talking about intensity of attention taking the place of long hours of practice.

I think I buy into both. I'm wishy washy that way.

So what are the pursuits that are significant enough to me, or are so in tune with the gifts God has given me, that 10,000 hours is totally worth it? Or the equivalent amount in attention or focus?

Is there a decent app for that kind of conversion? Never mind - FOCUS... Focus... focus.

Turning the corner, then... in a Ford Focus.

Hee hee ha ha hoo hoo *snort* Woo.

In our multimedia world, instant anything anytime anywhere, do we even have enough attention span left for obsession? Can we stay focused enough to put in our 10,000 hours to "master" something? Do we ever master things anymore, or do we just get them to a "good enough" level, and leave it at that? Is it only the truly obsessed that ever really "get" something and make it their own?

I remember, and I'm not proud of this, that as a young punk church musician, the phrase "good enough for Gospel" might be heard in preparation for a service. No need to polish something to a nice shine - it's good enough to get through tonight's service. I think I repented of that particular little nugget somewhere around my sophomore year of college - probably when I finally understood the place of the musicians in the Temple way back in the Old Testament - they were from the priestly line, and their vocation and calling was to lead the people in worship.

"Good enough for Gospel" isn't. The Lord deserves our best. Period. That's one of those non-negotiable areas that have front row seats in the bus, complete with embroidered seat covers with their names on 'em.

But what about the others? In my world, they include writing and storytelling, music, magic, crochet, wire jewelry making, Kumihimo, inkle weaving, sewing, Tai Chi, riding my trike, finally figuring out how to get that dang protective liner off the top of the bottle when opening a new thingie of Vitamin C tablets... (The chewable, fruit-flavored kind, but I digress.)

The list goes on and on.

Who gets the 10,000 hours, and who gets a pink slip?

Granted, some of these have a lot of time banked already. I've been a musician all my life, for example. And a magician since Herself and I were married 30 years ago. But 10,000 hours of practice? Polishing and perfecting? Not so much.

So who gets my attention? Who gets obsession? No idea - but I do know that if I don't answer that question and fill the void, it'll get filled for me.

As for me, in my little weird world, I'd rather choose where my attention goes, instead of having it chosen for me, so that at the end of the day I know where my time went, and am glad because of it.

I've got a long list, with 10,000 hours due on each line.

Got to go now - I've got things to obsess over.